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Arguments for Universal and Particular Redemption stated and 



Sect. 1. Socinians — Contingent events not subjects of infallible 
foreknowledge — No predestination of individuals. 

2. Arminians — Predestination of individuals dependent on 

the foreknowledge of their faith and good works, or of 
their unbelief and impenitence. 

3. Calvinists — Entire dependence of the creature on the 

Creator — Extent of the Divine knowledge — One de- 
cree embracing all that is to be, means and end — Su- 
pralapsarians — Sublapsarians — Decree of Election ab- 
solute — Good pleasure of God — Covenant of Redemp- 
tion — Merits of Christ a part of the Decree of Elec- 
tion — Decree of Reprobation — Extent of the Remedy 
determined by the Divine decree. 



Production of the character required for enjoying the blessings 
of the Gospel — Opinions of the Socinians, Arminians, and 
Calvinists — Grace — Its nature and efficacy. 




Sif T. I. Arminian system satisfying upon a general view — Three 
difficulties, under which it labours, stated. 

2. Objections to the Calvinistic System reducible to two. 

3. Calvinistic System not inconsistent with the nature of 

man as a free moral agent^ — Definition of liberty- 
Efficient and final causes — Both embraced by the plan 
of Providence — Whence the uncertainty in the ope- 
ration of motives arises — How removed — Gratia con,' 
grua — Renovation of the mind — Exhibition of such 
moral inducements as are fitted to call forth its 

4. Calvinistic System not inconsistent with the attributes 

of God — The nltima ratio of the inequality in the 
dispensation of the gifts, both of Nature and of 
Grace — Decree of reprobation exerts no influence up- 
on men leading them to sin — Objection resolvable 
into the question concerning the Origin of Evil — Phi- 
losophical Answer —Arminians recur to the same 
Answer — The Glory of God — Moral Evil the object 
©f his abhorrence. 



SYSTEM, ..... 132 

Sect. 1. All the actions of men represented as comprehended in 
the great plan of Divine Providence. 

2. Predestination ascribed in Scripture to the good plea- 

sure of God — System of those who consider the ex- 
pressions employed, as respecting only the calling of 
large societies to the knowledge of the Gospel. 

3. Representations given in Scripture of the change of cha- 

racter produced by Divine Grace. 

4. Objections arising from the commands, the counsels, and 

the exhortations of Scripture. 


history of CALVINISM, . . 161 






External and Effectual Call — Synergistic System — Fanaticism 
— Calvinistic View of Conversion — Faith — Different Kinds — 
Saving Faith. 



A Forensic act — Its Nature — Church of Rome — First Reform- 
ers — Socinians and Arminians — Calvinists — First and second 
Justification — Justification one act of God — Saints under the 
Old Testament — Other individuals not outwardly called — 
Perseverance of Saints — Assurance of Grace and Salvation — 
Reflex act of Faith — Witness of the Spirit. 



Good works, fruits of Faith — Apparent contradiction between 
Paul and James — Solifidians — Antinomians — Fratres liberi 
spiritus — Practical Preaching. 



Sect. 1. First part of Sanctification, Repentance — Its Nature — 
Popish doctrine — Late Repentance — Precise time of 

2. Second part of Sanctification, a new life — Habit of 

Righteousness — Immutability of the Moral Law — 
Christian Casuistry^ — Counsels of Perfection — Merit 
of good works — Works of Supererogation. 

3. Imperfection of Sanctification — Anabaptists — Mortal 

and venial sins — Distinction unwarranted — Romans 
vii. — Christian Morality. 




Scriptural terms — Kingdom of Christ — Union of Christ and 
his disciples — Adoption — Covenant of Grace. 
Sect. 1. Meaning of hahx» — Covenant of Works — Sinaitic Co- 
venant — Abrahamic Covenant — New Covenant. 

2. Mediator of the New Covenant — Offices of Christ — Me- 

diatores Secundarii of the Church of Rome. 

3. Prayer — Encouragements to it in the Covenant of Grace 

— Nature of Christ's intercession. 

4. Sacraments — Explanation of the term — Signs and Seals 

of the Covenant of Grace — Seven Sacraments of the 
Church of Rome. 



Sect. 1. Prevalence of Washings in the religious ceremonies of 
all nations — How Baptism is a distinguishing rite of 
Christianity — Opinions of the Socinians and Quakers 
— Immersion and sprinkling — Giving a Name. 

2. Baptism more than an initiatory rite — Opinions of the 

Church of Rome, and of the Reformed Churches. 

3. Infant Baptism — View of arguments for it — Godfathers 

and Godmothers — Confirmation — Admission for the 
first time to the Lord's Supper. 



Institution — Correspondence between the Passover and the 
Lord's Supper — Origin of different opinions respecting it — 
System of the Church of Rome — Transubstantiation — Of 
Luther — Consubstantiation — Ubiquity — Of Zuinglius — A 
Commemoration — Of Calvin — Spiritual presence of Christ — 
Time of observing the ordinance. 



Happiness of Heaven — Intermediate state — Purgatory — Dura- 
tion of hell torments. 






Obligation to observe Ordinances. 




Sect. 1. Quakers — Deny necessity and lawfulness of a standing 
Ministry — Consequent disunion and disorder — Their 
principles repugnant to reason and Scripture. 

2. Independents, or Congregational Brethren — Leading 

principle — Unauthorized by the examples of the New- 
Testament, and contrary to the spirit of its directions 
— Implies disunion of the Christian Society. 

3. Church of Rome — Papists and Roman Catholics — Gal- 

ilean Church — Catholics of Great Britain — Unity of 
the Church— Grounds on which the primacy of the 
Pope is maintained — Matthew xvi. 16. — Scriptural 
and historical view of the Church of Rome — 2 Thess. 
ii. — Daniel vii. — Rev. xvii. 

4. Episcopacy and Presbytery — Principles of the Episco- 

pal form of Government — Of the Presbyterian — Points 
of agreement and difference — Timothy and Titus — 
Bishop and Presbyter — Right of Ordination — Succes- 
sion of Bishops — Presbyterian form of government 
not a novel invention — Imparity among Bishops, of 
human institution — Opinions of ancient writers upon 
the equality of Bishops and Presbyters — First Re- 
formers — Presbyterian parity. 




GOVERNMENT, .... 449 

Not created by the State — Erastianism — A spiritual power — 
Conduct of our Lord and his apostles — Anabaptists — Church 
of Rome — Excommunication — The Lord Jesus Christ the 
Head of the Church — Purpose for which he gives power to 
his Ministers — Its limits. 


POTESTAS AoyfAuriKyi, . . . 4-85 

Scripture the only rule of faith — Articles of faith — Reasons for 
framing them — History of Confessions of Faith — Subscrip- 
tions to them. 


POTESTAS Atarcucrtxyij .... ,511 

Conditions of Salvation declared in Scripture — What enact- 
ments the Church has power to make — Liberty of Conscience 
— Rule of Peace and Order — Puritans. 


POTESTAS Aiax^iTiXy,, .... 536 

Judicial power of the Church warranted — System of the Church 
of Rome — of Protestants. 






By the Calvinistic tenets is meant that system of 
doctrine with regard to the extent of the remedy, 
which distinguishes those who embrace all the opi- 
nions of Calvin, from those Christians who agree 
with him only as to the divinity of Christ and the 
atonement. I shall not attempt to open the whole 
system at once ; but I shall go step by step through 
the points of difference between it and other systems, 
in the order which appears to me the most natural. 
In this way we shall not reach all the parts of the 
Calvinistic system, till we have gone through the 
third great division of the subjects of theological con- 
troversy, I mean the application of the remedy ; and 
we shall then be able, by a short retrospective view 
of the ground over which we have travelled, to form 
a precise connected idea of the whole. According 



to this manner of exhibiting the Calvinistic system, 
I begin with stating the question concerning univer- 
sal and particular redemption ; in other words, whe- 
ther Christ died for all men, or only for those who 
shall finally be saved by him. 

The two sides of this question do not imply any 
difference of opinion with regard to the sufficiency 
of the death of Christ, or with regard to the num- 
ber and character of those who shall eventually be 
saved. They who hold the one and the other side 
of the question agree, that although the sufferings 
of Christ have a value sufficient to atone for the sins 
of all the children of Adam, from the beginning to 
the end of time, yet those only shall be saved by this 
atonement who repent and believe in him. But they 
differ as to the destination of the death of Christ ; 
whether in the purpose of the Father and the will 
of the Son it respected all mankind, or only those 
persons to whom the benefit of it is at length to be 

The doctrine of universal redemption is mention- 
ed as one of the distinguishing tenets of the Pela- 
gians. It forms the subject of one of the five points 
which comprehend the Arminian system. It is held 
by all the Lutheran churches. It seems to be taught 
in one of the articles of the church of England, and 
several parts of the Liturgy ; and it is avowed by 
the great body of English divines as the doctrine of 
Scripture and of their church. This doctrine w^ill 
be understood from the second of the five Arminian 
points, which is thus expressed : "Jesus Christ, the 
Saviour of the world, died for all men, and for every 
individual, so as to obtain for all, by his death, re- 
conciliation and remission of sins; upon this condi- 


Hon, however, that none in reality enjoys the bene- 
fit of this remission but the man who believes." Dr. 
Whitby, in his discourse on the five points, thus ex- 
plains the doctrine : " When we say Christ died for 
all, we do not mean that he hath purchased actual 
pardon or reconciliation or life for all ; this being in 
effect to say that he procured an actual remission of 
sins to unbelievers, and actually reconciled God to 
the impenitent and disobedient, which is impossible. 
He only, by his death, hath put all men in a capacity 
of being justified and pardoned, and so of being re- 
conciled to, and having peace with God, upon their 
turning to God, and having faith in our Lord Jesus 
Christ ; the death of Christ having rendered it con- 
sistent with the justice and wisdom of God, with the 
honour of his Majesty, and with the ends of govern- 
ment, to^pardon the penitent believer." 

According to this doctrine, the death of Christ is 
an universal remedy for that condition in which the 
posterity of Adam are involved by sin — a remedy 
equally intended for the benefit of all. It removes 
the obstacles which the justice of God opposed to 
their deliverance. It puts all into a condition in 
which they may be saved, and it leaves their actual 
salvation to depend upon their faith. The remedy 
may in this way be much more extensive than the 
application of it. But even although the offer of 
pardon were rejected by all, it would not follow that 
the atonement made by the death of Christ was un- 
necessary, for the offer could not have been given 
without it ; and whatever reception the Gospel may 
meet with, the love of God is equally conspicuous in 
having provided a method by which he may enter 
into a new covenant with all who had sinned. 


This doctrine appears to represent the Father of 
all in a light most suitable to that character, as re- 
garding his children with an equal eye, providing, 
without respect of persons, a remedy for their dis- 
ease, and extending his compassion as far as their 
misery reaches. And it appears to represent the 
satisfaction which Christ offered to Divine justice, 
as opening a Avay for the love of God to the whole 
human race being made manifest by the most en- 
larged exercise of mercy. These views are support- 
ed by the general strain of Scripture, and by many 
very significant expressions which occur in the New 
Testament.* It is said that Jesus Christ is the 
Saviour of the world ; that he died for all ; that he 
gave himself a ransom for all ; that he tasted death 
for every man.f The extent of the grace of God in 
our justification seems to be compared with the ex- 
tent of the effects of Adam's sin in our condemna- 
tion. ^ Large societies of persons professing Christ- 
ianity, all of whom we cannot suppose to be of the 
number of those who shall be finally saved, are ad- 
dressed in the Epistles as those for whom Christ gave 
himself ; and there are expressions in some of the 
Epistles which seem to intimate that he died even 
for those who perish.^ False teachers, who brought 
in damnable heresies, are said, 2 Pet. ii. 1, to have 
been bought by the Lord. All to whom the Gospel 
is revealed are commanded to believe in Christ for 
the remission of sins, which seems to imply that he 
has made atonement for their sins; and to give 
thanks for Christ, which seems to imply that he 

* John i. 29; iii. l6. 1 Tim. ii. 4; iv. 10. 2 Pet. iii. 9. 
t John vi. 51. 1 Tim. ii. 6. Heb. ii. 9- I John ii. 2. 
JRom.v. 18. § 1 Cor. viii. 11. Rom. xiv. 15. 


is an universal Saviour. Jesus marvelled at the un- 
belief of those among whom he lived ; he upbraided 
them because they repented not ; he besought men to 
come to him ; and he bewailed the folly of the Jews, 
saying, as he wept over their city, " if thou hadst 
known in this thy day the things which belong to 
thy peace."* Even the Almighty, both in the Old 
and in the New Testament, condescends to use en- 
treaties and expostulations, as well as commands. 
" What could have been done more to my vineyard 
that I have not done in it ? O that my people had 
hearkened unto me !"f " God hath given unto us," 
says the Apostle, " the ministry of reconciliation, 
to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world 
unto himself. Now then we are ambassadors for 
Christ as though God did beseech you by us, we pray 
you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.":|: 
The establishment of a Gospel ministry continues 
this ambassadorship in every Christian country, and 
may be regarded as a standing witness of the uni- 
versality of redemption, because these expostulations, 
which the servants of Christ are commissioned to 
use in the name of God, appear to be without mean- 
ing, unless we suppose that God hath done every 
thing on his part, and that it rests only with us to 
embrace the remedy which is offered. 

In giving this general view of the arguments by 
which the advocates for the doctrine of universal re- 
demption support their opinion, I have separated 
them as much as possible from tlM>se more intricate 
questions of theology which will meet us as we ad- 

* Mark vi. 6. Matth. xi. 20, 28. Luke xix. 41, 42. 
t Isa. V. 4. Psal. Ixxxi. 13. J 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, 20. 


vance. But even from the simple manner in which 
I have stated them, it is plain that they admit of 
much amplification. Some of them are susceptible 
of rhetorical embellishment; others lead into a large 
field of Scripture criticism ; and there are others, 
the force of which cannot be estimated till after a 
review of the whole Calvinistic system. These 
arguments are spread out at length, not only by 
professed Arminian writers, but by many English 
divines, particularly in Barrow's Sermons upon the 
doctrine of universal redemption, and in the second 
of Whitby's discourses upon the five points, entitled 
the Extent of Christ's Redemption. These two 
writers have given a collection of all the texts of 
Scripture which appear to establish this doctrine, 
and a very favourable specimen of the mode of rea- 
soning by which it is commonly supported. 

Any person who examines with candour the 
arguments now stated, will acknowledge that they 
have considerable weight. I mention this, because 
I do not know any lesson more becoming students 
of divinity, than this — not to despise the reasonings 
of those with whose opinions they do not entirely 
agree. The longer they study theological contro- 
versy with that sobriety and fairness of mind which 
is essential to the character of every inquirer after 
truth, they will perceive the more clearly how little 
acquainted with the weakness of the human under- 
standing, and with the intricacy of many of the 
points that have filivided the Christian world, are 
those who state their opinions in the petulant dog- 
matical manner often assumed by smatterers in 
knowledge, as if there were not a shadow of reason 
but upon their own side. In the question which 


we are now treating, it requires a thorough ac- 
quaintance with the Calvinistic system, and much 
compass of thought, to apprehend the full force of 
the answers that may be given to the arguments 
for universal redemption ; and I warn you rather 
to wait for the conviction which will arise from a 
view of all the parts of that system, than to expect 
that arguments equally plausible, in favour of par- 
ticular redemption, are immediately to be stated. 
The following observations, however, will, upon 
reflection, open the sources of these arguments. 

1. Those, who hold that the destination and in- 
tention of the death of Christ respected only such 
as shall finally be saved by him, appear to be war- 
ranted by many expressions which occur in the 
New Testament; such as the following: John x. 11, 
15, " I lay down my life for the sheep ;" that is, as 
the expression is explained in the context, for those 
who " hear and follow me ;" John xi. 52 ; xv. 12, 13, 
14; Eph. V. 25. 

2. As the persons, to whom the intention of 
Chi'ist's death appears in such expressions to be 
restrained, are found in all places of the world, 
there is a propriety and significancy in the general 
phrases employed elsewhere to denote them : and 
when some of the texts commonly urged in proof of 
universal redemption are examined particularly, 
there will be discovered, in the context, circum- 
stances which indicate that the general expressions 
there used were intended to mar^ the indiscriminate 
extension of the blessings of the Gospel to men of 
all nations. Thus, because the benefit of the Jewish 
sacrifices was confined to that nation, John the 
Baptist, when he saw Jesus coming to him, marked 


him out to the people as " the Lamb of God, which 
taketh away the sin of the world ;" * that is, of all 
those in every place who are forgiven. — So John, in 
his first epistle, speaking as a Jew, says of Jesus, 
" he is the propitiation for our sins ; and not for 
ours only," that is, not for the sins of us Jews only, 
" but also for the sins of the whole world." f — So 
the apostle Paul says of Jesus, he " gave himself a 
ransom for all, to be testified in due time." :|: But 
if we attend to the scope of the discourse, of which 
these words make a part, which is an exhortation 
to pray for all men, and a command to all men in 
every place to pray, it will be perceived that the 
apostle's argument does not necessarily require any 
farther meaning to be affixed to these words than 
this, — that Christ gave himself a ransom not merely 
for that peculiar people, who are sometimes called 
in the Old Testament the " ransomed of the Lord." 
but for all in every place who shall obtain redemp- 

3. Although deliverance from the evils of sin, 
the great blessing purchased by the death of Christ, 
is peculiar to those who shall finally be saved by 
him, yet there are blessings which the publication 
of the Gospel has imparted to others ; and there is 
strict propriety in saying that the love of God to 
mankind which appears in creation and providence, 
and by which God is good to all, has produced the 
manifestation and the death of Christ, although 
the benefits intended by that event for those who 
shall finally be saved are very much superior to the 
benefits, which it may be the instrument of convey- 

* John i. 29. t 1 John ii. 2. t 1 Tim. ii. 6. 


ing to the whole human race. To a great part of 
the world the Gospel has communicated the most 
valuable knowledge : it has delivered many nations 
from gross superstition and idolatry ; it has ex- 
plained the duties of men more clearly than any 
other method of instruction : it furnishes restraints 
upon vice and incentives to virtuous exertion, that 
are unknown to civil legislation ; and by all these 
methods it contributes to the prosperity of society, 
and to the welfare of the individual. These com- 
mon benefits of Christianity are sufficient to ex- 
plain many expressions in the epistles addressed to 
Christian societies, without our being obliged to 
suppose that all the members of these societies were 
in the end to inherit eternal life. In respect of 
these common benefits, we understand the following 
passages, Heb. vi. 4, Heb. x. 29, and 2 Peter ii. 1. 
For all who had an opportunity of hearing the 
Gospel, had tasted the good word of God, and the 
powers of the world to come ; they were sanctified 
through the blood of the covenant ; and, in the 
language of Peter in his first epistle, they were 
" redeemed with the blood of Christ, from their 
vain conversation which they had received by tra- 
dition from their fathers." Amongst the number 
thus redeemed, were the false teachers of whom he 
speaks in his second epistle. They had relinquished 
the errors in which they were educated : they had 
professed themselves the servants of Jesus, and 
were bound to him as their Lord ; but by bringing 
in damnable heresies, they denied the Lord that 
bought them. The apostle Paul seems to refer to 
this distinction between the common benefits which 
all professing Christians derive from the death of 


Christ, and the complete salvation of those who are 
called his sheep and his friends, when he says, 
1 Tim. iv. 10, " God is the Saviour of all men ;" 
not only in respect of his preserving providence, 
but in respect of that xH^^ co/rj^g/og which, through 
the kindness and love of God our Saviour, hath 
appeared to all men ; — " specially of them that be- 
lieve," that is, he is in a much more eminent sense 
the Saviour of them that believe, than of other men. 
4. It should be considered, that although the ad- 
vocates for universal redemption do not allow that 
there is any weight in the two preceding observa- 
tions, yet they are obliged, upon their own princi- 
ples, to admit that many of those expressions, from 
which they infer that Christ died intentionally for 
all men, require a limitation. For if faith in Christ 
be the condition upon which men become partakers 
of the propitiation which he offered to God, it seems 
to follow that all who have not the means of attain- 
ing this faith are excluded from the benefit of the 
propitiation. But it is certain that the ancient 
heathen world did not know the nature of that dis- 
pensation, the promise of which was confined to the 
Jews ; and it is manifest that a great part of the 
world at this day have never heard of the Gospel. 
Were the offer of pardon that is contained in the 
Gospel actually made to all the children of Adam, 
there would be an appearance of truth in saying 
that all men were thereby put into a condition in 
which they might be saved, and that it depended 
upon themselves whether or not they embraced the 
offer. But if the efficacy of the remedy is insepa- 
rably connected with its being accepted, it cannot 
be, in the intention of the Almighty, an universal 


remedy, since he has withheld the means of accept- 
ing it from many of those for whom it is said to 
have been provided. The words of the apostle, 
then, " God will have all men to be saved, and to 
come to the knowledge of the truth," must receive 
from the event an interpretation different from that 
which is the most obvious ; and all the other texts 
urged in favour of universal redemption are in like 
manner limited by the imperfect publication of the 
Gospel. The Arminians themselves acknowledge 
that there is a secret which they cannot penetrate, 
— a deep and unsearchable counsel, in leaving so 
many nations without the possibility of attaining to 
the truth ; and all their attempts to reconcile an 
intention in God to save the inhabitants of these 
nations, with the grossness of the superstition in 
which they are involved, and the insuperable ob- 
stacles which education, example, habit, and situa- 
tion oppose to their believing in Christ, are unsa- 
tisfying and defective ; because they either proceed 
upon the principles of the Socinian doctrine, that 
men may everywhere be saved by acting up to the 
light of nature, or they approach to some parts of 
the Calvinistic system, respecting the effectual and 
irresistible operation of the grace of God upon the 
soul ; which the Arminians profess to renounce. 

5. To those who hold the doctrine of particular 
redemption it appears that the event, in those coun- 
tries where the Gospel has been jjublished, clearly 
indicates that there was not, in the Almighty, an 
intention of saving all men by the death of Christ. 
For it is plain that many of those who have every 
opportunity of believing in Christ either reject his 
religion, or show by their conduct that they do not 


possess that faith which entitles them to partake in 
the benefits of his death. With regard to them, 
therefore, his death is in vain ; and if God intended 
that they should be saved, his intention fails of its 
effect. But it seems when we hold such a language, 
that we speak in a manner unbecoming our circum- 
stances, and inconsistent with those views of the 
Almighty which are suggested by reason, and are 
clearly taught in Scripture. " Known to God are 
all his works from the beginning." The whole 
scheme of the universe, which derived its existence 
from his pleasure, was present to the Creator at the 
instant when he said, " Let there be light." The 
actions of his creatures, which form a most impor- 
tant part of that scheme, were to him the object of 
a foreknowledge infinitely more clear and certain 
than our knowledge of that which is before our 
eyes. The perfections of his nature exclude the 
possibility of any change in the divine mind ; and 
those events which to us appear the most unex- 
pected and irregular, fulfil " the purpose of Him 
who worketh all things after the counsel of his 

If these views of the Almighty are just, and if our 
minds are able to follow out the consequences which 
necessarily result from them, we cannot conceive him 
susceptible of that disappointment, regret, and alter- 
ation of measures which we often experience by the 
failure of our schemes ; but we must admit that the 
original intention of the Creator and Ruler of the uni- 
verse always coincides with the event which takes 
place under his administration. Since many, there- 
fore, to whom the Gospel is published, appear, as far 
as we can judge from our own observation, and from 


the complaints of Scripture, to remain under the 
wrath of God, we do not seem to draw an unwarrant- 
able conclusion, when we infer from the event, that it 
was not a part of the intention of the Almighty to 
deliver them from wrath by the death of his Son. 
In the same manner as many who have the means 
of improvement do not attain knowledge or skill, and 
some who have talents and opportunities for rising 
to wealth and honour pass their days in obscurity 
and indigence ; so many to whom the offer of eter- 
nal life is made through Jesus Christ put it far from 
them. In both cases the blessings of God are a- 
bused, and men do not reap the temporal and spiri- 
tual benefits, which, had it not been for their own 
fault, they might have reaped ; but in neither case 
is the intention of God disappointed. For he fore- 
saw the use which they would make of his blessings, 
and all the consequences of their conduct entered 
into the plan of his government. 

These views of the Almighty seem to correct that 
desire of magnifying the love of God to mankind, 
which has led many to ascribe to him an intention 
of saving all men, although he knew that a great 
part of the human race were not to be saved. They 
seem to suggest, in place of this defective intention, 
a destination more worthy of the sovereignty of the 
Creator, — a destination of saving those who shall in 
the end be saved ; and there are many places of 
Scripture in which the destination, that we are led 
in this manner to deduce from the perfection of the 
divine nature, seems to be intimated. I refer at 
present only to John vi. where our Lord says re- 
peatedly, that he gave his life for the world, and 
where he speaks also of those whom the Father hath 


given him. " The bread of God is he who cometh 
down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 
The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will 
give for the life of the world. All that the Father 
giveth me shall come to me. This is the Father's 
will, that of all which he hath given me I should lose 
nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." 
Here are the doctrines of particular and of universal 
redemption seemingly taught in the same discourse. 
The expressions of the one kind must be employed 
to qualify the expressions of the other kind ; and it 
cannot be said that we pervert Scripture, when, ad- 
hering to the particular destination of saving those 
who shall be saved, which reason teaches and Jesus 
Christ declares, we give the other expressions such 
an interpretation as renders them consistent with 
that destination. 

This fifth observation has conducted us to the 
threshold of those intricate questions in theology, 
which arise out of the different conceptions formed 
by Christians of the nature and the manner of the 
divine foreknowledge. To the views entertained of 
this attribute, we may trace the different opinions 
concerning the doctrine of predestination ; and there- 
fore from this point I shall begin, under a deep sense 
of the difficulty of the subject, and of the reverence 
and humility with which it becomes us to speak 
of the counsels of the Almighty, to state these opi- 

Barrow's Sermons. 

Whitby on the Arminian Points. 





The opinion which is to be stated first, because 
it appears to be the most simple, may be called the 
Socinian. It is the system of those who attempt to 
get rid of all the difficulties in which the divine 
foreknowledge seems to involve the subject, by 
denying that this attribute belongs to the Almighty 
to the extent in which it is usually understood. 
Socinus and his immediate followers admitted that 
God knows all things which are knowable. But 
they abridged the objects of divine knowledge, by 
withdrawing from that number those events whose 
future existence they considered as uncertain. Their 
manner of reasoning was this. Every thing that 
now is, has a real existence, which is the subject of 
knowledge. Every thing that is past had at some 
former time a real existence, which is also the sub- 
ject of knowledge. Every thing that is necessarily 
to happen at some future time may be known by a 



mind capable of tracing the nature of the connex- 
ion, by which it proceeds out of that which now is. 
Thus all the changes in the material world arise, 
according to certain general laws, out of its present 
condition. If any being, therefore, is perfectly ac- 
quainted with that condition, and with the opera- 
tion of those laws, he sees the future in the present ; 
and, in general, every event, the futurition of which 
is certain, may be the subject of infallible know- 
ledge. But there are events which appeared to 
Socinus contingent, in this sense of the word, that 
they do not arise from any thing preceding, as their 
cause. They may be, or they may not be ; and as 
he thought that they were not certainly future, he 
thought also that it was impossible for any being to 
know certainly beforehand that they were to hap- 
pen. Amongst this number he ranked the determi- 
nations of free agents, all those actions which pro- 
ceed from the will of man. For as the actions of 
men follow the choice which they have made, and 
as he who chose one thing might have chosen an- 
other, it appears that there is no previous circum- 
stance necessarily and unavoidably producing this 
or that action ; and from hence Socinus inferred 
that every thing done by men acting freely is, by 
its nature, incapable of being the subject of that 
infallible foreknowledge commonly ascribed to the 

According to this system, there cannot be any 
such decree with regard to the salvation of parti- 
cular persons as is meant by the word predestina- 
tion. For as the remission of sins is connected in 
Scripture with faith and repentance, and as the 
determinations of free agents are supposed to be 


unknown to God, he must be ignorant whether any 
persons will attain that character, without which 
they cannot be saved. The only decree respecting 
the salvation of men, which Socinus admits to have 
been made from the beginning, and to be unchange- 
able, is this general conditional decree, that whoso- 
ever repents and believes in Jesus shall have eternal 
life. This decree is applied to particular persons, 
when they appear to possess the character which it 
describes ; and by this application, what in its ori- 
ginal form was merely the declaration of a condition 
becomes an absolute peremptory decree, giving eter- 
nal life to those who have been faithful unto death. 
But it is unknown to God what number of such 
persons there may be, or whether there may be any. 
Although he has provided means for the recovery 
of mankind, he is as ignorant of the efficacy or the 
result of these means as any of the children of men; 
and all the expressions in Scripture, which we are 
accustomed to consider as spoken after the manner 
of men, are understood by Socinus to be the literal 
descriptions of the state of a being, who waits with 
anxiety for what men will do, who is grieved at 
their obstinacy, who repents that he has done so 
much for them, and who is liable to meet with total 
disappointment in the end which he proposed to 

If this system appears to remove some of the dif- 
ficulties which attend other systems, it purchases 
this advantage by bj-inging the character of the 
Deity so far down to a level with human weakness, 
as to sap the foundations of religion. If God does 
not foresee the determinations of free agents, he 
cannot foresee the consequences of their determina- 

YOI. III. c 


tioiis. But if it be considered how very much the 
state of the moral world depends upon actions that 
proceed from choice, how far the history of the 
human race has, from the beginning, been affected 
by the conduct of creatures who might have acted 
otherwise, we must be sensible that a being who 
had not the foreknowledge of that conduct was, 
from the beginning, ignorant of by much the great- 
est part of the transactions that were to take place 
in the world which he made. The whole train of 
prosperous and calamitous events that were to befal 
families and nations was hidden from his eyes. In- 
stead of appearing in the exalted light of the author 
of a plan by which the affairs of the universe are 
ordained and arranged for the good of his creatures, 
he becomes a spectator of unlooked-for occurrences, 
and his power and wisdom are employed merely in 
directing events as they arise to his view. His 
measures are perpetually traversed by evils which 
he had not foreseen ; and while he is occupied from 
day to day in applying remedies to the disorders 
which he discovers in different parts of his works, 
new emergencies show that some other remedy 
might have been better suited to the case. 

From the following expressions of Socinus, it 
will appear that I have not exaggerated, in painting 
that degradation of the Deity which necessarily 
results from abridging his foreknowledge. — " No 
absurdity," says Socinus, " will follow from suppos- 
ing that God does not know all things before they 
happen. For of what use is this knowledge ? Is 
it not enough that God perpetually governs all 
things, and that nothing can be done against his 
will ; that he is always so present by his wisdom 


and power, that he can both discern the attempts of 
men, and hinder them if he pleases ; that he can 
turn all that man can do to his own glory ; and 
that he may, when he sees proper, appoint before- 
hand in what manner he shall accommodate his 
actions to the attempts which man may make ?" ^^ 
The answer to all such questions is this, that it is 
irreverent, and contrary to the idea of an infinitely 
perfect Being, to ask ; is it not enough for him, that 
even we are able to form the notion of a much 
higher degree of perfection than is stated in the 
questions ; that the characters of Creator and Ruler 
of the universe imply much more ; and that the 
Scriptures uniformly ascribe to God the foreknow- 
ledge of the determinations of free agents ? The 
moral conduct of many individuals was foretold 
before they were born ; the behaviour of the people 
of Israel for a succession of ages, the treatment 
which they were to receive from the Egyptians, the 
Babylonians, and other nations ; the peculiar kinds 
of wickedness which were to prevail in the neigh- 
bouring kingdoms ; the obstinacy of the Jews in 
rejecting the Messiah ; the circumstances of his 
sufferings ; the destruction of Jerusalem, and the 
corruptions of Christianity, — all these are the sub- 
jects of predictions so particular, as to show the 
most intimate knowledge of the future sentiments 
and actions of men ; for the events which I have 
enumerated, and many others which occur in read- 
ing the prophetical parts of Scripture, are of such a 
kind that they derive their complexion and charac- 
ter, not from any circumstances in the material 

* Socini Prselect. cap. 8, 


world, but from the volitions and determinations of 
the free agents, who were concerned in bringing 
them about. 

It cannot be said that the predictions of Scrip- 
ture declare only what is probable. For, besides 
the apparent improbability of many of the events 
foretold, and the immense extent of time, and space, 
and operation, to which the predictions reach, it is 
obvious that all of them are delivered, not in the 
language of conjecture, but with the most solemn 
asseveration, in the name of the God of truth ; and 
it is hard to form any conception more unworthy 
of the Supreme Being, than that he should conduct 
his government by declaring as certain, future 
events, concerning which he himself, at the time of 
the declaration, was doubtful. 

Socinus, and some later writers who tread in his 
steps, sensible that the probability of the events 
foretold does not afford a satisfying account of the 
predictions that are found in Scripture, have re- 
course to a system, with regard to the exertion of 
the divine foreknowledge in particular cases, of 
which I shall endeavour to give a fair exposition. 
They hold that God is able to foresee future events 
whensoever he pleases, because he can make a par- 
ticular ordination with respect to them ; by which 
means, events in their own nature contingent be- 
come certainly future, and so are the subject of 
infallible foreknowledge. Thus many blessings fore- 
told in Scripture are good things which God had 
resolved to send by the actions of men : many evils 
foretold are punishments which he had resolved to 
inflict by the same means : many sins foretold are 
jbhe consequence of his punishing former sin, by 


withdrawing that grace which would have re- 
strained from future transgression ; and the whole 
series of predictions, that respect the Messiah, re- 
sults from the ordination of the Almighty concern- 
ing the deliverance of mankind. But we must not 
infer, it is said, from those extraordinary cases in 
which God chooses to foreordain, and consequently 
to foresee what is future, that his foreknowledge of 
future events is universal. The greater part of the 
determinations of free agents he leaves in their 
natural state of uncertainty ; they may choose one 
course, or they may choose another ; and the course 
which they are to follow is unknown to him till 
they have made their choice. 

It is admitted by the framers of this new system, 
that the ordination of God gives events that cer- 
tainty which renders them capable of being fore- 
known ; and this principle is borrowed from that 
system of theology which it was their object to 
overturn. What is peculiar to them is, that they 
confine this ordination to particular extraordinary 
cases, and suppose all others exempted from it. 
But a foreknowledge, exerted at some times and not 
at others, constitutes a most imperfect kind of go- 
vernment. For the occasion of its being exerted at 
any particular season can be nothing else but the 
state of the world at that season : but as this state 
arises out of that which went before, and as the 
propriety of the measures taken in reference to it is 
very much affected by that which is to come after, 
a Being, who is supposed ignorant of the great 
series of events in the universe, is unqualified for 
making any extraordinary interposition. The fram- 
ers of the new system were obliged to account for 


the multitude of predictions respecting the Messiah, 
by ascribing the whole scheme of his appearance to 
the ordination of the Almighty, But that scheme, 
according to the account given of it in Scripture, 
embraces the introduction, the propagation, and the 
removal of sin, i. e. the whole history of the deter- 
minations of the human race, or of their moral con- 
duct from the beginning to the end of time. The 
ordination of this scheme, therefore, necessarily in- 
cludes the foreknowledge of the moral conduct of 
men ; and we cannot withdraw that moral conduct 
from the number of the objects foreknown by God, 
without supposing that he was unacquainted with 
the reasons of that scheme which we allow that he 

It appears, then, that the partial admission of the 
divine foreknowledge, to which necessity has driven 
the Socinians, does not answer the purpose for which 
it was resorted to ; and that this system carries with 
it its own confutation, in presuming to restrict the 
operations of the Supreme Mind. Reason and Scrip- 
ture concur in teaching that no bounds can be set to 
the Almighty. Our faculties may be unable to rise 
to the exalted conception of a Supreme Mind, to 
whom all things that have been, that now are, and 
that shall be, are equally present. But the plain de- 
clarations of Scripture supersede our speculations. 
There we read that all his works are known to him 
from the beginning ;* that all things are naked and 
open in his sight ;f that the purposes of his heart 
endure throughout all generations. \ The power of 
foretelling future events, which reason teaches to be 

* Acts XV. 18. t Hcb. iv. 13. % Ps. xxxiii. 11. 


essential to his nature, is there claimed by him as 
his prerogative ; * it is often occasionally exerted in 
uttering predictions : and as well from the nature of 
these predictions, as from the manner in which the 
power is elsewhere spoken of, we are led to conclude 
that it implies a perception of all the actions of his 
creatures, which is not subject to mistake, which is 
incapable of receiving any accession, and which ex- 
tends with equal clearness and facility through every 
portion of space, and every point of duration. 

That abridgment of the objects of the divine fore- 
knowledge, which was first introduced by Socinus, 
and is peculiar to those who follow him, has not been 
adopted by all who are called Socinians. Dr. Priest- 
ley writes thus, in the first part of his Institutes of 
Natural and Revealed Religion, which treats of the 
being and attributes of God. " God having made 
all things, and exerting his influence over all things, 
must know all things, and consequently be omnisci- 
ent. Also, since he not only ordained, but con- 
stantly supports all the laws of nature, he must be 
able to foresee what will be the result of them, at any 
distance of time ; just as a man who makes a clock 
can tell when it will strike. All future events, there- 
fore, must be as perfectly known to the Divine Mind 
as those that are present ; and as we cannot conceive 
that he should be liable to forgetfulness, we may con- 
clude that all things, past, present, and to come, are 
equally known to him ; so that his knowledge is in- 
finite." Dr. Priestley takes no notice of the distinc- 
tion which Socinus made between those events which, 
arising from necessary causes, are certainly to be, 

* Isa. xlvi. 9, 10. 


and those which Socinus called contingent, such as 
the determinations of free agents. The reason is, 
that Dr. Priestley, being a professed materialist, con- 
sidered the operations of mind as taking place accord- 
ing to the same laws of nature with the motions of 

There does not appear to him any more uncertain- 
ty in the one than in the other, and therefore both 
are, in his opinion, equally the objects of divine fore- 
knowledge. If the doctrine of the universal prescience 
of God unavoidably involves the principles of ma- 
terialism, it must be renounced by all who hold that 
the soul is essentially distinct from the body. But 
if the doctrine can be defended without having re- 
course to these principles, it is not a sound argument 
against the truth of the doctrine, whatever discredit 
it may thereby suffer in the opinion of the ignorant 
or careless, that a materialist finds it perfectly recon* 
cileable with his system. 


Arminius, who lived in the beginning of the 
seventeenth century, may be regarded as the foun- 
der of the system of opinions generally held by those, 
who, while they admit the dignity of our Saviour's 
person, and the doctrine of atonement, do not hold 
the other doctrines of Calvinism. He and his fol- 
lowers renounced the peculiar tenets of Socinus with 
regard to the divine prescience. They considered 


the most contingent future events as known to God ; 
but the power, bj^ which such events are foreknown* 
appears to them essentially different from the fore- 
sight of those events, which arise by a continued 
chain of causes. It is a power of which they do not 
pretend to form any distinct conception, which they 
are content to resolve into the supereminent excel- 
lence of the divine nature, and the existence of which 
they do not attempt to establish by reasoning, but 
simply deduce from experience. The Scriptures, 
we have seen, abound with predictions of a series of 
contingent events, involving numberless determina- 
tions of free agents. But if contingent events were 
certainly foretold, it is manifest that they were cer- 
tainly foreknown by that Being from whom the 
prediction proceeded ; and if the fact be once es- 
tablished, that God foreknows contingent events, it 
is admitted by the Arminians, that all the difficulty, 
which we feel in accounting for the manner of the 
fact, does not constitute any argument against the 
truth of the fact. Socinus proceeded upon a maxim 
which has been repeated after Aristotle in many a 
system of logic, — De J'utiwis contingetitibus non 
datur determinata Veritas. Entertaining no doubt 
of the truth of this maxim, he apprehended that 
the certain foreknowledge of events destroyed their 
contingency, and therefore he concluded it to be 
impossible, or a contradiction in terms, for contin- 
gent events to be certainly foreknown. But Armi- 
nius and his followers learned to correct the maxim 
of Aristotle ; and it is now universally understood 
amongst philosophers, that future events, which are 
in their own nature contingent, may be certain, and 
consequently may be foreknown. This will be un- 


derstood from a familiar example. Whether I am 
to write a letter to-morrow or not is a matter purely 
contingent. If no foreign cause interpose to take 
from me the power which I now possess, I may- 
write, or I may refrain from writing. Both events 
are equally possible ; but one of the events will 
certainly happen ; and of the two propositions, I 
will write to-morrow, I will not write to-morrow, 
one, although I do not know which, is at this mo- 
ment true. The truth which now exists, whether 
it be perceived by any being or not, will be known 
at the end of to-morrow to me, and to any person 
who attends to my employments through the day : 
and if there is any being who possesses the faculty 
of knowing the truth beforehand, the determination 
of my mind is not in the least affected by his know- 
ledge. Although it is certain when the day begins 
what I am to do, and although the event which is 
then certain may be known to some being whose 
understanding is more enlarged than mine, I feel 
no restraint through the course of the day ; but I 
write or I do not write, I read or I do not read, I 
go abroad or I remain at home, according to cir- 

We say, then, that contingency is inconsistent 
with that necessary determination to one event 
which excludes the possibility of another : but we 
say that it is not inconsistent with the certainty, 
that of two events, either of which might happen, 
one is to happen ; and therefore we hold there is 
no contradiction in saying that a contingent event 
may be certainly foreknown. For as Dr. Clarke 
writes, ** Foreknowledge has no influence at all 
upon the things foreknown ; and it has therefore 


no influence upon them, because things would be 
just as they were, and no otherwise, though there 
were no foreknowledge. It does not cause things 
to be. — The futurity of free actions is exactly the 
same, and in the nature of the things themselves, of 
the like certainty in event, whether they can, or 
whether they could not, be foreknown." * 

It is this possibility of foreseeing future contin- 
gencies, such as are the determinations of free 
agents, which distinguishes the Arminian system 
of predestination from the Socinian. Both systems 
proceed upon the general declaratory decree, that 
" whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall be 
saved," as the first in order, and as becoming per- 
emptory with regard to every individual after he 
has persevered in faith. But whereas the Socinian 
scheme supposes the number and the names of the 
individuals that shall be saved, to have been from 
the beginning unknown to God, and consequently 
the decrees respecting them to be made at such 
times as their faith appears to him, the Arminians 
do not conceive so unworthily of God as to think 
that any thing new and unexpected can present 
itself to his mind, and that his decrees are succes- 
sively made according to emergencies ; but they 
consider all the grounds upon which the conditional 
decree is at length to become peremptory with re- 
gard to individuals, as from the beginning known 
to God. The amount of their tenets may be thus 
shortly stated : God, who wills all men to be saved, 
and who gave his Son to be the Saviour of the 
world, that whosoever believeth in him should not 

* Sermon on Omniscience of God. 


perish, foresaw, before the foundation of the world, 
the use which men would make of the means of 
salvation provided for them in Christ. Upon the 
foresight of the faith and good works of some, he 
determined, from all eternity, to give them, upon 
account of Christ, and through Christ, eternal life ; 
and upon the foresight of the unbelief and impeni- 
tence of others, he determined, from all eternity, to 
leave them in sin and subject to condemnation. 

According to this system, predestination, or the 
decree that some persons shall be saved, and others 
condemned, rests upon the prescience gf God, by 
which, says Arminius, in the declaration of his opi- 
nion, God knew, from eternity, what persons, under 
the administration of the means necessary for pro- 
ducing faith and repentance, were to believe, and 
what persons were not to believe. By all who hold 
this system, such a decree is represented as exhibit- 
ing at once the goodness and the justice of God : his 
goodness, in providing a Saviour, and offering the 
means of salvation ; his justice, in rewarding men 
according to their works, giving eternal life to those 
who make a proper use of the means, and condemn- 
ing only those who abuse them. There is, in the 
language of the Arminians, an antecedent will in 
God to save all men ; that is, a will previous to the 
consideration of the circumstances of individuals, 
that all men may be saved : a will which does not 
rest in bare desire, what the schoolmen call velleitas, 
but appears carried forth into action in the means 
which he has provided to accomplish the end. There 
is in God a consequent will to save only some per- 
sons, and to condemn others ; that is, a will conse- 
quent upon the consideration of the conduct of indi- 


vJduals, and correspoiiding to that conduct. The 
difference, say the Arminians, between the anteced- 
ent and the consequent will of God, is owing entire- 
ly to the sins of men ; every thing has been done 
by him that is necessary for their salvation ; and, if 
they did their part, the antecedent and the conse- 
quent will of God would coincide, and all men would 
be saved. 

And thus, by admitting that the actions of moral 
agents may be free, although they are foreknown, 
and by building upon the divine foreknowledge of 
these free actions, the decree respecting the final 
condition of mankind, the honour of the divine per- 
fections appears to be maintained ; the limitation 
of the extent of the remedy in the Gospel is seen to 
arise from no other cause but the fault of those to 
whom it is offered, and the strongest motives are 
held forth to engage us to " give all diligence in 
making our election sure." But plausible and un- 
exceptionable as this system at first sight appears, 
there are difficulties under which it labours, and im- 
perfections that adhere to it, which will open upon 
us by degrees as we proceed in the exposition of the 
Calvinistic system of predestination. 


The characteristical feature of the Calvinistic sys- 
tem is, that entire dependence of the creature up- 
on the Creator, which it uniformly asserts, by con- 
sidering the will of the Supreme Being as the cause 


of every thing that now exists, or that is to exist at 
any future time. This principle is fruitful of conse- 
quences which, when they are followed out and ap- 
plied, give to the doctrines of Christianity^ that pe- 
culiar comj)lexion known hy the name of Calvinism ; 
and from this principle results that view of the di- 
vine prescience which is the ground-work of the doc- 
trine of predestination that I am now to delineate. 

Of things impossible there can be no knowledge. 
The same character, by which they must remain for 
ever in the class of nonentities, so that not even om- 
nipotence can bring them into existence, withdraws 
them from the number of those subjects of which 
any mind can form a distinct conception. But all 
things that are possible may be conceived ; and the 
more perfect any understanding is, the more com- 
plete is the representation of things possible in that 
understanding. To the Supreme Mind, therefore, 
there are distinctly represented, not only all the sin- 
gle objects which may be brought into existence, but 
also all the possible combinations of single objects, 
their relations, and their mutual influences on the 
systems of which they may compose a part. Out of 
this representation of possibilities which is implied 
in the perfection of the divine understanding, the 
Supreme Being selects those single objects, and those 
combinations of objects, which he chooses to bring 
into existence ; and every circumstance in the man- 
ner of the existence of that which is to be, thus de- 
pending entirely on his will, is known to him, be- 
cause he has decreed that it shall be. 

The representation of all things possible in the 
divine understanding has been called by theologians 
Scientia sbnplicis inteU'igentice : and the knowledge 


which God, from eternity, had of all that he was to 
produce has been called scientla msionis. Amongst 
the objects of the former knowledge are to be rank- 
ed all those things, the reality of which would have 
been the same, although no creature had ever been 
produced, such as the existence of God, his attributes, 
and all those abstract propositions w^iich are eter- 
nally and immutably true. We attain the know- 
ledge of abstract propositions by rising to them from 
the contemplation of particular objects : but this is 
a tedious method, suited to the imperfection of our 
natures. The truth of the propositions is totally 
independent of the existence of the particular objects 
by which they are suggested to us. That three an- 
gles of a triangle are equal to two right angles would 
be true, although no triangle had ever been drawn. 
By a perfect mind the truth of such general propo- 
sitions is recognised before the objects are produced ; 
and the knowledge, which the Supreme Being has 
of the possibilities of things, necessarily involves a 
knowledge of these abstract propositions ; because 
the very circumstance which renders the existence 
of many things impossible is, that they cannot exist 
without a contradiction to some of those abstract 
propositions which are always true. In defining 
scientia visionis, I called it the knowledge which 
God, from eternity, had of all that he was to pro- 
duce. The reason, why the words ' from eternity* 
were inserted in the definition, requires particular 
attention upon this subject. Since the infinite per- 
fection of the nature of God excludes the idea of 
change in his purposes, of increase to his knowledge, 
or of succession in his perception of objects, it fol- 
lows, that the choice, out of things possible, of those 


which he determined to bring into existence, was 
not made in time, at the successive periods at which 
his creatures appeared ; but that the whole plan of 
what was to be produced was for ever present to his 
mind. There was a time when all the objects of 
the scientia visionis were future. At that time their 
futurition, that is, their being to pass in succession 
from the state of possibility to the state of existence, 
was known to God, merely as being the result of his 
own determination. After the execution of this de- 
termination commenced, some of the objects of the 
scientia visionis became past ; others became pre- 
sent, and others continued future. But all are 
equally in the view of the divine mind. There is 
to him no more fatigue or imperfection in the re- 
membrance of what is past, or the foresight of what 
is future, than in the perception of what now is. 
Indeed, there is an impropriety in using the words 
remembrance or foresight, when we speak of the 
knowledge of God ; and it is only the narrowness 
of our conceptions, and the poverty of our language, 
which compel us to apply such terms to his clear, 
unvarying intuition of the whole series of objects 
which derive their existence from his pleasure. 

The two kinds of knowledge which have now been 
explained, are understood, in the Calvinistic system, 
to comprehend all that can be known. There are 
no conceivable objects but those of which it can be 
affirmed, either that they may be, or that they may 
not be. Of things which may not be, this only can 
be distinctly known, that they are impossible ; and 
a being, who knows all the things that may be, 
knows also what are the things which may not be ; 
for every thing that does not enter into the com- 


plete representation of things possible, which is pre- 
sent to his mind, is known, by that circumstance, 
to be impossible. Scientia simplicis intelligentice, 
then, exhausts the subjects of knowledge, in respect 
of the possibility or impossibility of their existence ; 
but it does not imply any knowledge of the actual 
existence of those things which are possible ; for 
from this proposition, a thing may be, this other 
proposition, it shall be, does by no means follow. 
Hence scientia simplicis intelligentice was called by 
the schoolmen scientia indejinita, as not determining 
the existence or the non-existence of any object out 
of the Deity. But scientia visionis, on the other 
hand, was called scientia dejinita, because the exist- 
ence of all the objects of this knowledge, whether 
they be past, present, or future, is determinate ; in 
other words, it is not more certain that what is past 
has had an existence, and that what is present now 
exists, than that what God foresees as future shall 
exist hereafter. If, therefore, scientia visionis be 
joined to scientia simplicis intelligenticB, every thing 
that can be known is comprehended ; in other words, 
if nothing can exist without the willof the First Cause, 
and if the First Cause, who knows all things that are 
possible, knows also what things he wills to produce, 
then he knows every thing. There is nothing that 
does not fall under one or other of these kinds of 
knowledge. We have already seen that all which 
can be known of things that may not be belongs to 
the scientia simplicis intelUgeiiticB ; and of the things 
that may be, either a thing is possible, but not fu- 
ture, and then it belongs to this kind of knowledge 
also ; or it both may be, and shall be, and then it 
belongs to the scientia visiofiis. To state the thing 
VOL. nr. D 


still more plainly, ail things which maj^ exist are 
either things which shall be, or things which shall 
not be : the latter remain amongst things possible, 
the objects of scientia simplicis intelligenticB ; the 
former pass from the number of things barely possi- 
ble into the number of the objects of scientia vi- 

Those, who consider all the objects of knowledge 
as comprehended under one or other of the kinds 
that have been explained, are naturally conducted 
to that enlarged conception of the extent of the di- 
vine decree, from which the Calvinistic doctrine of 
predestination unavoidably follows. The divine de- 
cree is the determination of the divine will to pro- 
duce the universe, that is, the whole series of beings 
and events that were then future. The parts of 
this series arise in succession; but all were, from 
eternity, present to the divine mind ; and no cause 
that was at any time to operate, or no effect that 
was at any time to be produced in the universe, can 
be excluded from the original decree, without sup- 
posing that the decree was at first imperfect, and af- 
terwards received accessions. The determination 
to produce this world, understanding by that word 
the whole combination of beings, and causes, and 
effects, that were to come into existence, arose out 
of the view of all possible worlds, and proceeded up- 
on reasons to us unsearchable, by which this world 
that now exists appeared to the divine wisdom the 
fittest to be produced. I say, the determination to 
produce this world proceeded upon reasons ; because 
we must sui^pose that, in forming the decree, a choice 
was exerted, that the Supreme Being was at liberty 
to resolve either that he would create, or that he 


would not create ; that he would give his work this 
form or that form, as he chose ; otherwise we with- 
draw the universe from the direction of a Supreme 
Intelligence, and subject all things to blind fatality. 
But if a choice was exerted in forming the decree, 
the choice must have proceeded upon reasons ; for 
a choice made by a wise being, without any ground 
of choice, is a contradiction in terms. At the same 
time it is to be remembered, that as nothing then 
existed but the Supreme Being, the only reason which 
could determine him in choosing what he was to pro- 
duce, was its appearing to him fitter for accomplish- 
ing the end which he proposed to himself, than any 
thing else which he might have produced. Hence 
scientla visionis is called by theologians scientia li- 
bera. To sciejifia simpUcis intelligentice they gave 
the epithet naturalise because the knowledge of all 
things possible arises necessarily from the nature of 
the Supreme Mind ; but to scientia visionis they 
gave the epithet Uhera, because the qualities and ex- 
tent of its objects are determined, not by any neces- 
sity of nature, but by the will of the Deity. Al- 
though, in forming the divine decree, there was a 
choice of this world, proceeding upon a representa- 
tion of all possible worlds, it is not to be conceived 
that there was any interval between the choice and 
the representation, or any succession in the parts of 
the choice. In the divine mind, there was an in- 
tuitive view of that immense subject, which it is not 
only impossible for our minds to comprehend at 
once, but in travelling through the parts of which 
we are instantly bewildered ; and one decree, em- 
bracing at once the end and the means, ordained, 
with perfect wisdom, all that was to be. 


The condition of the human race entered into 
this decree. It is not, perhaps, the most important 
part of it when we speak of the formation of the 
universe, but it is a part which, even were it more 
insignificant than it is, could not be overlooked by 
the Almighty whose attention extends to all his 
works, and which appears, by those dispensations of 
his providence that have been made known to us, 
to be interesting in his eyes. A decree respecting 
the condition of the human race includes the history 
of every individual : the time of his appearing upon 
the earth ; the manner of his existence while he is 
an inhabitant of the earth, as it is diversified by the 
actions which he performs, and by the events, whe- 
ther prosperous or calamitous, which befall him ; and 
the manner of his existence after he leaves the earth, 
that is, his future happiness or misery. A decree 
respecting the condition of the human race also in- 
cludes the relations of the individuals to one ano- 
ther : it fixes their connexions in society, which 
have a great influence upon their happiness and their 
improvement ; and it must be conceived as extend- 
ing to the important events recorded in Scripture, 
in which the whole species have a concern. Of this 
kind is the sin of our first parents, the consequence 
of that sin reaching to all their posterity, the media- 
tion of Jesus Christ appointed by God as a remedy 
for these consequences, the final salvation, through 
this Mediator, of one part of the descendants of 
Adam, and the final condemnation of another part, 
notwithstanding the remedy. These events arise at 
long intervals of time, by a gradual preparation of 
circumstances, and the operation of various means. 
But by the Creator, to whose mind the end and the 


means were at once present, these events were be- 
held in intimate connexion with one another, and in 
conjunction with many other events to us unknown; 
and consequently all of them, however far removed 
from one another as to the time of their actual ex- 
istence, were comprehended in that one decree by 
which he determined to produce the world. 

Hence it may be observed how idly they are em- 
ployed, who presvime to settle the order of the di- 
vine decrees, and how insignificant are the contro- 
versies upon this subject, which in the days of our 
fathers divided those who were agreed as to the ge- 
neral principles of Calvinism. One side were called 
Supralapsarians, because in their conceptions of the 
order of the divine decrees respecting the human 
race, they ascended above the fall, and considered 
God as regarding men before they were created, and 
as resolving to manifest his attributes by the whole 
series of events which he ordained concerning the 
race, from the creation of Adam till the consumma- 
tion of all things. The other side were called Sub- 
lapsarians, because they rose no higher than the fall, 
but considered God as regarding men in the wretch- 
ed situation to which that event had reduced them, 
as providing means for their recovery, and as con- 
ducting some to eternal life by these means, while 
he left others in misery. The distinction was al- 
lowed, even at the time when it engrossed the atten- 
tion of theologians, not to be essential : but the good 
sense of modern times has almost effaced the remem- 
brance of it ; because it is now understood that we 
may employ such illustrations and arrangements of 
the subject as we find most useful to assist our con- 
ceptions, and that we may differ from one another 


ill these illustrations and arrangements, without for- 
saking the general principles which I have been de- 
lineating ; provided we remember that, although the 
narrowness of our faculties obliges us to conceive of 
the divine decree in parts, these parts were in the 
divine mind without sepa^'ation and without priori- 
ty ; and that, whether we ascend higher or lower in 
our statement of that part of the divine decree which 
we call the doctrine of predestination, that doctrine 
is intimately connected with a series of events, the 
beginning and the end of which our minds are inca- 
pable of following. 

Having thus unfolded that view of the divine 
foreknowledge upon which the doctrine of predes- 
tination rests in the Calvinistic system, I shall next 
exj)lain some of the terms commonly used by those 
who hold this doctrine, that the true meaning of the 
Calvinists may be fully understood, before we pro- 
ceed to compare their system with those formerly 
stated, or to examine the difficulties with which it is 
attended. For this purpose, I quote the following 
words of our Confession of Faith, chapter iii. 

" 3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation 
of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated 
unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to ever- 
lasting death. 

" 4. These angels and men, thus predestinated 
and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably 
designed ; and their number is so certain and de- 
finite, that it cannot be either increased or diminish- 

" 5. Those of mankind that are predestinated un- 
to life, God, before the foundation of the world was 
laid, according to his eternal and immutable pur- 


pose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his 
will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, 
out of his mere free grace and love, without any 
foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in 
either of them, or any other thing in the creature, 
as conditions or causes moving him thereunto ; and 
all to the praise of his glorious grace. 

" 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, 
so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of 
his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. 
Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in 
Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called 
unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due 
season ; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept 
by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither 
are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, 
justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect 

" 7. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, ac- 
cording to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, 
whereby he extendetli or withlioldeth mercy as he 
pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over 
his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dis- 
honour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his 
glorious justice." 

I quote also the seventeenth article of the Church 
of England, in the meaning and even in the expres- 
sion of which, there is a striking agreement with 
part of the preceding paragraphs from the Confes- 
sion of Faith. 

" Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose 
of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world 
were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, 
secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation 


those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of man- 
kind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting sal- 
vation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they 
which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, 
be called according to God's purpose, by his Spirit 
working in due season : they, through grace, obey 
the calling : they be justified freely : they be made 
sons of God by adoption : they be made like the im- 
age of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ : they 
walk religiously in good works ; and at length, by 
God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity." 

These quotations suggest the following proposi- 
tions, which may be considered as constituting the 
Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, and in which 
there is an explication of most of the terms. 

1. God chose out of the whole body of mankind, 
whom he viewed in his eternal decree as involved 
in guilt and misery, certain persons who are called 
the elect, whose names are known to him, and 
whose number, being unchangeably fixed by his 
decree, can neither be increased nor diminished ; so 
that the whole extent of the remedy offered in the 
Gt)spel is conceived to have been determined before- 
hand by the divine decree. 

2. As all the children of Adam were involved in 
the same guilt and misery, the persons thus chosen 
had nothing in themselves to render them more 
worthy of being elected than any others ; and 
therefore the decree of election is called in the Cal- 
vinistic system absolute, by which word is meant, 
that it arises entirely from the good pleasure of 
God, because all the circumstances which distin- 
guish the elect from others are the fruit of their 


3. For the persons thus chosen, God, from the 
beginning, appointed the means of their being deli- 
vered from corruption and guilt ; and by these 
means, effectually applied in due season, he con- 
ducts them at length to everlasting life. 

4. Jesus Christ was ordained by God to be the 
Saviour of these persons, and God gave them to 
him to be redeemed by his blood, to be called by 
his Spirit, and finally to be glorified with him. All 
that Christ did in the character of Mediator, was 
in consequence of this original appointment of the 
Father, which has received from many divines the 
name of the Covenant of Redemption ; a phrase, 
which suggests the idea of a mutual stipulation 
between Christ and the Father, in which Christ 
undertook all that work which he executed in his 
human nature, and which he continues to execute 
in heaven, in order to save the elect ; and the Fa- 
ther promised that the persons for whom Christ 
died should be saved by his death. According to 
the tenor of this covenant of redemption, the merits 
of Christ are not considered as the cause of the 
decree of election, but as a part of that decree ; in 
other words, God was not moved by the mediation 
of Christ to choose certain persons out of the great 
body of mankind to be saved ; but having chosen 
them, he conveys all the means of salvation through 
the channel of this mediation. 

5. From the election of certain persons, it neces- 
sarily follows that all the rest of the race of Adam 
are left in guilt and misery. The exercise of the 
divine sovereignty, in regard to those who are not 
elected, is called Reprobation ; and the condition of 
all having been originally the same, reprobation is 


called absolute in the same sense with election. In 
reprobation, there are two acts, v/hich the Calvinists 
are careful to distinguish. The one is called Prete- 
ntion, the passing by those who are not elected, 
and withholding from them those means of grace 
which are provided for the elect. The other is 
called Condemnation, the act of condemning those 
who have been passed by, for the sins which they 
commit. In the former act, God exercises his good 
pleasure, dispensing his benefits as he will : in the 
latter act, he appears as a Judge, inflicting upon 
men that sentence which their sins deserve. If he 
had bestowed upon them the same assistance which 
he prepared for others, they would have been pre- 
served from that sentence : but as their sins pro- 
ceeded from their own corruption, they are thereby 
rendered worthy of punishment ; and the justice of 
the Supreme Ruler is manifested in condemning 
them, as his mercy is manifested in saving the elect. 


I shall in this section advert to the points of dif- 
fei'ence in the three systems which have been men- 
tioned, and to the difficulties in which the peculi- 
arities of the two systems, that admit of being com- 
pared, are supposed to involve those by whom they 
are defended. 

The Socinian and Calvinistic systems are so dia- 
metrically opposite, that they do not admit of being 
compared. For the Socinian, withdrawing future 


contingent events from the foreknowledge of the 
Supreme Being, either proceeds upon the principles 
of materialism, according to which the actions of 
men are events of the same order, arising unavoid- 
ably by the same laws of nature, with the pheno- 
mena of the heavens and the earth ; or it excludes 
the possibility of an eternal decree respecting the 
future condition of men. The first of these alter- 
natives is adopted by Dr. Priestley: the second was 
adopted by Socinus and his followers. But neither 
the one nor the other presents what can appear, to 
those who hold the received principles of natural 
religion, a system of predestination. Accordingly 
Socinus says, * that all those places of Scripture, 
which treat of the divine decree of saving certain 
men, are to be so explained, Ui non certi quidam 
homines nominatim intelUgantiir, sed genus quod- 
dam hominum. And one of his followers, speaking 
in the name of the Socinians, says, that they reject, 
as hurtful to pie-ty and contrary to Scripture, both 
the predestination and reprobation of individuals, 
and also the foreknowledge that some are to make 
a right use of their liberty, and others to abuse it ; 
and that they assert nothing more than this, that 
God has predestinated to eternal life all whosoever 
shall, to the utmost of their power, continue to the 
end in obedience to his precepts, and that he has 
reprobated all whosoever shall not obey. Itaque 
electio et reprohatio in genere prorsus est certa et 
immutahilis, in individuo autem mutabilis est f 

The Arminian system agrees with the Calvinistic 
in admitting that contingent events, such as the 

* Socin. Praelect. cap. 13. t Stapfer. iii. 415. 


determinations and actions of men, are foreseen by 
God ; and this fundamental principle, without which 
there can be no predestination, being common to 
both, it is possible to compare the manner of its 
being applied in the two systems. Both agree in 
admitting that there is a peremptory decree by 
which the Supreme Being, from all eternity, unal- 
terably fixed the everlasting condition of man ; but 
the precise difference between them is this. The 
Arminians hold that God made this peremptory 
decree upon the foresight of the faith and good 
works of some, of the infidelity and impenitence of 
others ; i. e. God, foreseeing from all eternity that 
some would repent and believe, elected them to 
everlasting life ; and foreseeing that others would 
continue in sin and unbelief, left them to perish. 
The Calvinists, on the other hand, say, that the 
faith and good works of the elect are the conse- 
quences of their election, and are foreseen by God, 
because he determined to produce them ; that, being 
the fruits of his determination, they cannot be re- 
garded as the cause of it ; and therefore that the 
election of some, and the reprobation of others, are 
to be resolved into the good pleasure of God, acting 
indeed upon the wisest reasons, but not originally 
moved by the foresight of any circumstance in the 
former rendering them more worthy of being elected 
than the latter. 

The first thing to be attended to, in comparing 
these two systems, is the manner of that foresight 
upon which the Arminian system rests, and from 
which result all the points of difference between it 
and the Calvinistic. It is a foresight of the faith 
and good works of some, in consequence of which 


they are elected ; of the infidelity and impenitence 
of others, in consequence of which they are repro- 
bated. But this is a foresight which the Armi- 
nians do not class either under scientia smplicis in- 
telligentKE, or under scientia visionis : — not under 
the first, which is conversant about things possible, 
or those abstract relations which are independent of 
actual existence ; whereas this foresight is conver- 
sant about objects which are certainly to exist, and 
whose future existence, as foreseen by God, has 
power to produce a decree : — not under the second, 
which is the knowledge of all things that God has 
determined to produce ; whereas this foresight is 
conceived to be antecedent to the determination of 
God, being the cause of his decree respecting the 
condition of those persons whose conduct is fore- 

To this kind of foresight, thus distinguished 
from scientia simplicis intelligentice, and from scien- 
tia visionis^ they gave the name of scientia media, 
considering it as in the middle between the two. 
The term was first invented by Molina, a Spanish 
Jesuit, and a professor of divinity in Portugal. It 
was the leading principle of a book which he pub- 
lished in 1588, entitled, " Liberi arbitrii concordia 
cum gratiae donis, divina prsescientia, providentia, 
predestinatione, et reprobatione :" and it has been 
adopted by all who hold the system of Arminius. 
Scientia media is the knowledge, neither of events 
that are barely possible, nor of events that are ab- 
solutely decreed by God, but of events that are to 
happen upon certain conditions. When it is ap- 
plied to the doctrine of predestination, there arises 
out of it the following system. God from eternity 


took into his view the natural dispositions of men, 
the circumstances in which they were to be placed, 
and the objects which were to be presented to them. 
From this view, he foresaw the conduct which they 
were to pursue, and he made their conduct, thus 
foreseen, the measure according to which he deter- 
mined to administer the means of grace, and to fix 
their everlasting happiness or misery. To state the 
matter more shortly : God foresees what the con- 
duct of men will be in certain situations ; upon this 
foresight he determines their situations ; and thus 
by scientia media the free agency of man is recon- 
ciled with that prescience, which is implied in the 
conception of a perfect Mind, who rules the uni- 

The Calvinists do not admit that the kind of 
knowledge, called by this new name, is really dif- 
ferent from the two species formerly stated, under 
which it appears to them that all the objects which 
can be known are comprehended : and the reason- 
ing which they employ is to this purpose. If it is 
meant by scientia media that God knows every 
supposable case ; that all the combinations which 
can arise in every situation were present to his 
mind ; and that he is as well acquainted with what 
might have happened in any given circumstances 
as with what will happen : this is scientia simplicis 
intelligenticE, If by scientia media^ or, as it is 
sometimes called, conditionate foreknowledge, be 
meant that God sees what is to be, not singly, but 
as depending upon something going before it, this 
is scientia visionis. For nothing stands alone and 
unrelated in the universe : every event arises out 
of something antecedent, and is fruitful of conse- 


quences. What is called hypothetical necessity, by 
which no more is ixieant than this, if one thing is, 
another shall be, pervades the whole system of 
creation, and is the very thing which constitutes a 
system. Events, therefore, are not to be considered 
as the less ordained by God, because they are de- 
pendent upon conditions, since the conditions are of 
his appointment, and the manner in which the 
event depends upon the conditions is known to 
him ; so that if the conduct of men be considered 
as arising out of their circumstances, their temper, 
and the objects presented to them, it is as much a 
branch of the scientia visionis as the circumstances, 
the temper, and the objects out of which it arises. 
But if by scientia media we mean not merely the 
knowledge of all that is possible, not merely the 
knowledge of all future events in connexion with 
all present circumstances, but the knowledge of an 
event that is to be, although it did not enter into 
the decree of God, it follows, from the principles 
stated in the preceding section, that there can be no 
such knowledge. For, 1. every future event de- 
rives its futurition from the decree of God. To 
say, therefore, that God foresees an event before he 
has decreed that it shall be, is to say that he views 
as future, an event which is merely possible ; in 
other w^ords, that he views an 'event not as it is. 
But, 2. could we suppose that some events were 
future, which God had not decreed, his knowledge 
of these events would be reduced to that kind of 
conjecture which we form with regard to what 
shall be, from attending to all the previous circum- 
stances out of which it may be conceived to arise, 
instead of being that clear, infallible, intuitive pre- 


science of the whole series of causes and effects, 
which seems essential to the perfection of the divine 
understanding. And still farther, 3. supposing 
that, in some inconceivable manner, future events, 
not decreed by him, were as certainly foreknown as 
those which he had decreed, here would be a part 
of the imi verse withdrawn from the government of 
the Supreme Ruler ; something that is to come into 
existence independently of him, the futurition of 
which, being antecedent to his will, becomes the 
rule of his determination. 

Upon these principles the Calvinists, maintaining 
the sovereignty of the Deity, reject the third sense 
of scientia media, which is the only sense that is of 
any use in the Arminian system. They conceive it 
impossible that any thing, which is to be in the 
creation, can be the foundation of the divine decree 
concerning the creature, because every circumstance 
respecting the existence of the creature is dependent 
upon the divine will ; and they adhere to their own 
division of the divine knowledge as complete, be- 
cavise the things which may be, and the things 
which God hath willed to be, comprehend all the 
objects that can be known. 

There are several passages of Scripture which 
the Arminians adduce in proof of scientia media. 
Of this kind is the following. 1 Sam. xxiii. 10 — 
13. " David said, O Lord God of Israel, thy ser- 
vant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come 
to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. Will 
the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hands? 
Will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard ? 
And the Lord said. He will come down : they will 
deliver thee up. Then David arose and departed 


out of Keilah : and it was told Saul that David was 
escaped from Keilah, and he forebore to go forth." 
Saul's coming down, and the people's delivering up 
David, depended upon the condition of David's re- 
maining in the city. As the condition did not take 
place, the event did not happen: and therefore here, 
it is said, is an instance of an event not decreed by 
God, for then it must have happened, yet foretold 
by him ; in other words, here, it is said, is an in- 
stance of scientia media, the foreknowledge of an 
event depending upon a condition. But the Cal- 
vinists consider this as an instance of scientia sim- 
plicis intelligent icB. Amidst the possible combina- 
tions of objects which are present to the divine 
mind, this was one, that if David remained in 
Keilah, Saul would come down, and the people of 
the city would deliver him up. The connexion 
between his remaining, Saul's coming down, and 
the conduct of the people, was what God saw ; and 
at the request of David he declared that connexion. 
But we must entertain as low an opinion of the 
divine foreknowledge as the Socinians do, if we 
suppose that he foresaw the actual existence of any 
of the events thus connected. To the scientia sim- 
plicis intelligentice there appeared a chain, of which 
David's remaining in Keilah was one link ; to the 
scientia visionis there appeared another chain, of 
which it was not a link. God knew what would 
have happened in the one case ; he knew what was 
to happen in the other : but it is a sophism to say 
that he foresaw what would have happened, when 
he knew it was not to happen ; and this sophism is 
at the bottom of all the reasonings adduced to prove 



that there is in God the certain foreknowledge of 
any events but those which he has decreed to be. 

In the same manner the Calvinists explain that 
expression of our Lord, Mat. xi. 21, which appears 
to be a still clearer instance of scientia media, 
** Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Beth- 
saidah ; for if the mighty works which were done 
in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they 
would have repented long ago in sackcloth and 
ashes." Here is a declaration, consequently a know- 
ledge, of the event which would have happened, 
had the constitution of the universe admitted of the 
works of our Lord being done in Tyre and Sidon. 
This event was possible, before the Creator adopted 
that constitution of the universe which now is : it 
would have taken place had a particular constitu- 
tion been adopted ; but its existence being excluded 
by the decree which, adopting the present constitu- 
tion, includes the objects about which scientia 
visionis is conversant, it remains amongst the ob- 
jects of scientia simplicis intelUgentice. So all the 
promises of happiness which men shall realize if 
they prove obedient, all the expressions of regret at 
their missing the happiness which they might have 
attained if they had been obedient, and all the 
threatenings of misery which they shall incur if they 
disobey, — all conditional propositions of this kind, 
with which the Scriptures abound, are to be consi- 
dered not as intimations of the knowledge which 
God has of the futurition of any of these events, 
but merely as enunciations of one branch of that 
h)''pothetical necessity which pervades the system of 
the universe — the branch by which happiness \\^ 
connected with virtue, and misery with vice. 


Such is the different manner in which the Armin* 
ians and the Cal vinists conceive of the foreknowledge 
of God. The Arniinians, admitting that all events, 
of whatever kind, are foreknown hy the Supreme 
Being, but desirous to exempt the actions of men 
from the influence of his decree, have adopted the 
term scientla mediae m order to express a species of 
knowledge in the divine mind different from scientia 
s'lmpUcis iiiteUigentice, and from scientia visioiiis. 
But to the Calvinists, this new term, invented by- 
Molina, appears to be rn attempt to establish a dis- 
tinction where there is not a difference : for accord- 
ing to them, every thing that is to exist is decreed 
by God ; it derives its futurition from his decree, 
and it is foreseen because it is decreed. 

This difference in the manner of conceiving of the 
divine foreknowledge is the foundation of the dif- 
ference between the Arminian and the Calvinistic 
systems, all the distinguishing features of which are 
instantly perceived, when the different conceptions 
of the divine foreknowledge, that have been explain- 
ed, are applied to tlie great subject about which the 
systems are conversant. The plan of the Arminian 
system is this. God, having decreed to give his Son 
to be the Saviour of all men, having determined to 
save by Jesus Christ them that repent and believe, 
and having fixed a certain administration of the 
means of grace sufficient to bring all men to salva- 
tion, foresaw what persons would, under this ad- 
ministration, repent and believe, and them he elect- 
ed to everlasting life. The plan of the Calvinistic 
system is this. God having, from all eternity, cho- 
sen a certain number of persons, did, in time, give 
his Son to be their Saviour ; he bestows upon them, 


through him, that grace which effectually determines 
them to repent and believe, and so effectually con- 
ducts them, by faith and good works, to everlasting 
life. In the Arminian system, the faith and good 
works of some persons are viewed as independent 
of the decree by which they are elected. In the 
Calvinistic system, they are considered as the fruit 
of election ; and they were, from eternity, known to 
God, because they were, in time, to be produced by 
the execution of his decree. In the Arminian sys- 
tem, it is conceived that, although there are many 
who do not repent and believe, yet means sufficient 
to bring men to salvation are administered to all ; 
from which it follows, that, antecedently to the de- 
cree of election, these elected persons must have been 
considered as distinguished from others, by some 
predisposition in respect to faith and good works ; 
so that the doctrine of original sin can be admitted 
into this system only under such limitations as ren- 
der it consistent with such predisposition. In the 
Calvinistic system, predestination being an appoint- 
ment to the means as well as to the end, and all the 
conditions of salvation being given with Christ, by 
the decree of election, to those who are elected, every 
conception of any original superiority, or any ground 
of boasting, by nature, is excluded ; and the doctrine 
of original sin is admitted to the extent of represent- 
ing all men as involved in the same guilt and misery, 
as equally unable to extricate themselves, and as 
discriminated from one another by the mere good 
pleasure of God. In the Arminian system, Christ 
being conceived as given by God to be the Saviour 
of all the children of Adam, and as having purchased 
for all men a sufficient administration of the means 


of grace, what is called impetratio salutis may be 
of much wider extent than what is called applicatio 
salutis, God wills all men to be saved, upon con- 
dition that they repent and believe ; but the fulfil- 
ment of the condition is conceived, in this system, 
to depend upon man ; and, therefore, the purpose 
which, in the eternal counsel of divine love, extend- 
ed to all, is attained with regard to many, or to few, 
according to the use which they make of the means 
of grace afforded them. In the Calvinistic system, 
what is called applicatio salutis is conceived to be 
of equal extent with impeti'atio salutis. To all 
those whom God from the beginning decreed to 
save, he affords the means which infallibly conduct 
them to salvation : it is not in the power of man to 
increase or diminish their number ; and the divine 
purpose is effectual to the very extent to which it 
was originally formed. 

This view of the points of difference between the 
Arminian and Calvinistic systems, suggests the 
principal difficulties that are peculiar to each, which 
I shall in this place barely mention. The difficul- 
ties under which the Arminian system labours, are 

1. It is not easy to reconcile the infinite diversity 
of situations, and the very unfavourable circum- 
stances in which many nations, and some indivi- 
duals of all nations are placed, with one funda- 
mental position of the Arminian system, that to all 
men there are administered means sufficient to 
bring them to salvation. 

2. It is not easy to reconcile those views of the 
degeneracy of human nature, and those lessons of 
humility and self-abasement in the sight of God 


which both Scripture and reason inculcate, with 
another fundamental position of that system, that 
the faith and good works of those who are elected, 
did not flow from their election, but were foreseen 
by God as the grounds of it. 

3. It is not easy to reconcile the immutability 
and efficacy of the divine counsel, which enter into 
our conceptions of the First Cause, with a purpose 
to save all, suspended upon a condition which is 
not fulfilled with regard to many. 

The difficulties attending the Calvinistic system, 
however much they may have the appearance of 
being multiplied by a variety of expressions, are 
reducible to two, 

1. It appears to be inconsistent with the nature 
of man, to destroy his liberty, and to supersede his 
exertions, that they who are elected should be effec- 
tually determined to repent and believe. 

2. It appears inconsistent with the goodness and 
justice of God, that when all were involved in the 
same guilt and misery, he should ordain the effec- 
tual means of being delivered out of that condition 
only to a part of the human race, leaving the rest 
infallibly to perish. And if this be a true account 
of the divine dispensation, it seems to be a necessary 
consequence, that all the moral evil which is in the 
world, and all the misery arising from that moral 
evil, either here or hereafter, are to be ascribed to 

I have mentioned the difficulties peculiar to the 
two systems in this place, because they are sug- 
gested by the general view already given of the 
points of difference between them. But, in order 
to discern the force of the difficulties, and to judg^ 


of the attempts that have been made to remove 
them, it is necessary to attend more particularly to 
the account that is given, in each system, of the 
application of the remedy. I shall proceed, there- 
fore, now to this third subject of discussion, re- 
specting the Gospel remedy ; and, from the com- 
plete view which we shall thus attain, of the char- 
acteristical features of the two systems, we shall be 
qualified to estimate the difficulties that adhere to 
each, and prepared to weigh the amount of the evi- 
dence which each professes to derive from Scripture. 




As it is unquestionably the doctrine of Scripture, 
that none partake of the salvation which the Gospel 
was given to afford, but those who repent and be- 
lieve, we are entitled to say that the remedy offered 
in the Gospel is connected with a certain character of 
mind. The extent of the remedy being thus limited 
in so far that it reaches only to persons of that cha^. 
racter, I employ the phrase, The Application of the 
Remedy, in order to express the production of that 
character ; and I consider systems as differing from 
one another in respect of the application of the re- 
medy, when they differ as to the manner in which 
the character is produced. 

From the distinguishing features of the Socinian 
system, it will be perceived that, as it denies several 
of those fundamental principles on which the Armi- 
nians and Calvinists agree, it cannot be compared 
with them in respect to the application of the reme- 
dy. The Socinians adopt that doctrine which was 
introduced by Pelagius about the beginning of the 


fifth eeiitiuy, that the moral powers of hiiinan na- 
ture are not in the least injured by the sin of our 
first parents, but that all the children of Adam are 
as able to yield a perfect obedience to the commands 
of God as he was at his creation. They admit that 
men may be led, by the strength of passion, by un- 
favourable circumstances, and by imitation, into such 
sins as separate them from the favour of God, and 
render it difficult for them to return to the obedience 
of his laws ; but they hold that this difficulty never 
amounts to a moral impossibility ; and that at what 
time soever a sinner forsakes his transgressions, he 
is forgiven, not upon account of what Christ did, 
but from the essential goodness of the divine nature. 
They acknowledge that the Gospel gives to a sinful 
world more gracious and more effectual assistance in 
returning to their duty, than ever was afforded be- 
fore ; but they consider this assistance as arising 
solely from the clear revelation there given of the 
nature and the will of God, from the example there 
proposed, and from the hope of eternal life, that gift 
of God which is peculiar to this religion. By its 
doctrines and its promises, it presents to the human 
mind the strongest motives to obedience. All, there- 
fore, who live in a Christian country, enjoy an out- 
ward assistance in the discharge of their duty, of 
very great value ; and those, who receive the Gospel 
as the word of God, feel the power of it in their 
hearts. This inward power, the influence of the 
doctrine of Christ upon the mind, the Socinians un- 
derstand to be, in many places of the ^^yjv Testa- 
ment, the whole import of these expressions, ** the 
Spirit of God," the " Spirit of life," the ^' Spirit of 


the Lord." For as they deny that the Spirit is a 
person distinct from the Father and the Son, they 
are obliged to consider all the expressions from which 
the Trinitarians infer the personality of the Spirit, 
as figures, or circumlocutions ; and when it is said, 
** we walk after the Spirit — the Spirit of life makes 
us free — where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is li- 
berty — ye are washed and sanctified by the Spirit of 
our God," they find it easy to evade the argument 
which these and numberless phrases of the same kind 
are supposed to contain, by understanding the mean- 
ing of the sacred writers to be no more than this, 
that the influence of the doctrine and promises of 
the Gospel upon the mind, when they are firmly 
believed and cordially embraced, produces such ef- 

From these fundamental princij)les of the Socinian 
system it follows, that the application of the remedy 
is conceived in that system to be purely the work of 
man; that, as even without the advantages which 
the Gospel affords, he may, in every situation, by the 
mere use of his natural powers, do what is of itself 
sufficient to deliver him from the evils of sin, so his 
improving the assistance communicated by the Christ- 
ian revelation, in such a manner as to attain the 
cliaracter connected with the enjoyment of its bless- 
ings, arises not in any degree from the agency of a 
sujierior being upon his mind, but is an exercise of 
his own power depending wholly upon himself.* It 
is one of those future contingencies which the Soci- 

* A Deo habemus quod homines sumus^ a nobis ipsis quod 
j u sti . — Pelagius. 


niaiis sii^jpose to be withdrawn from the divine fore- 
sight ; and predestination according- to them is no- 
thing more than the purpose of calling both Jews 
and Gentiles to the knowledge of the truth, and the 
hope of eternal life by Jesus Christ — a purpose which 
God from the beginning formed, without knowing 
whether the execution of this purpose would have 
the effect of bringing any individual to heaven. Nei- 
ther the extent nor the application of the remedy 
entered into his decree ; but God did all that he pro- 
posed to do by giving the revelation, leaving to men 
to make use of it as they thought fit, and to receive 
such reward and such punishment as they shall ap- 
pear to him to deserve. 

This system, which as I said before attempts to 
get rid of difficulties by degrading the character of 
the Supreme Being, and excluding some of the first 
l^rinciples of religion, does not fall Avithin a compa- 
rative view of the different systems of predestina- 
tion ; and there remain to be considered only two 
opinions concerning what I call the application of 
the remedy, which we distinguish by the names of 
Arminian and Calvinistic. Of each of these opinions 
I shall give a fair statement ; by which I mean, that 
I shall endeavour to show in yvlmt manner the Ar- 
minian opinion is separated from Socinian principles 
by those who hold it, and in what light the Calvin- 
istic opinion is represented by those who appear to 
understand best the grounds upon which it may be 
defended ; and from this fair statement I shall pro- 
ceed to canvass the difficulties, formerly mentioned, 
which adhere to these two systems of predestina- 

7'he Arminians and Calvinists differ as to the 


measure of that injury which the moral powers of 
human nature received from the transgression of 
our first parents : but they agree in acknowledging 
that man has fallen from his original rectitude ; that 
there is an universal corruption of the whole race, 
the influence of which extends to the understanding, 
the will, and the affections ; that in this state no 
man is of himself capable of giving any uniform 
and effectual resistance to temptation, of extricating 
himself from the dominion of sin, or of attaining, by 
the exercise of his own powers, that character which 
is connected with a full participation of the blessings 
of the Gospel. They agree that the Father of spi- 
rits can act upon the minds of men so as to admi- 
nister a remedy to this corruption, and to recover 
them to the practice of virtue ; and they think it 
probable, even from the light of nature, that he will 
exert his divine power, and employ that various ac- 
cess which his continual presence with his creatures 
gives him, in accomplishing this gracious purpose. 
They find the hope of this expressed, as a dictate of 
reason, in many passages of heathen writers ; they 
find it inspiring all the prayers for divine assistance 
which occur both in the Old and in the New Testa- 
ment ; and they find it confirmed by many promises, 
which good men under the dispensation of the law 
embraced, but the complete fulfilment of which was 
looked for as one of the peculiar characters of that 
better dispensation which the law announced. When 
they read these words of Jeremiah, quoted in the 
Epistle to the Hebrews, x. 16, 17, " This is the co- 
venant that I will make with them after those days, 
saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, 
and in their minds will I write them : and their sins 


and iniquities will I remember no more," — they con- 
ceive the prophet and the apostle to have understood, 
that with the pardon of sin — that blessing which 
was typified by the sacrifices of the law, but is truly 
obtained by the sacrifice of the cross, — there is con- 
joined under the Gospel an influence exerted by the 
Almighty upon the hearts and the minds of Christ- 
ians ; and that these two taken together make up the 
character and the excellency of that better covenant 
which came in place of the first. The Arminians 
and Calvinists agree farther, that the Holy Ghost is 
a person distinct from the Father and the Son ; that 
he is a divine person ; and that he bears a part in 
accomplishing the salvation of mankind ; that he in- 
spired the prophets, who from the beginning of the 
world spake of this salvation, and cherished the ex- 
pectation of it in the breasts of pious men ; that hav- 
ing been given without measure to the man Christ 
Jesus, he descended, in fulfilment of his promise at 
the day of Pentecost, upon his apostles, and endow- 
ed them with those extraordinary powers which 
were necessary for the successful publication of the 
Gospel ; that he continues to be the fountain of all 
spiritual influence — the distributor of those gifts to 
men which Jesus Christ received ; and that the Fa- 
ther in all ages, upon account of the intercession of 
the Son, gives the Holy Spirit to his children. The 
Arminians and the Calvinists agree, that by the dis- 
tribution of these gifts, the Holy Ghost exercises the 
office of the Sanctifier and Comforter of Christians ; 
that he opens their understandings ; that he renews 
them in the spirit of their minds ; that he inclines 
their hearts to obey the truth ; that he helps their 
infirmities ; that all the graces in which they abound 


are the fruits of the Spirit ; and that as many as are 
the children of God are led by the Spirit of God. 
They agree farther in expressing these influences of 
the Spirit ])y the word Grace. The Socinians con- 
tend that this use of the Avord is not warranted 
by Scripture ; that the word in general signifies fa- 
vour ; that it is applied in a variety of meanings ; 
but that as there is no unequivocal instance of the 
sacred v/riters employing this word to express an 
influence exerted by God upon the mind, all that is 
said in systems of theology about grace is founded 
upon a perversion of Scripture. To the Arminians 
and Calvinists, on the other hand, it appears that 
there are passages in the New Testament, where the 
sense requires that the v/ord be understood with the 
meaning which they affix to it. Of this kind are 
Heb. iv. 16, 1 Cor. xv. 10. The controversy about 
the Scripture meaning of the word grace is not of 
much importance. Although in this, as in many 
other instances, the Scriptures may have been quot- 
ed and applied more from a regard to the sound 
than to the sense, and although the word grace may 
have been often understood to mean an influence 
upon the mind, when the sacred writers were speak- 
ing of the favour of God in general, or of the dis- 
pensation of the Gospel, which, being the brightest 
display of his favour to man, is often called the 
grace of God, yet this does not afford any kind of 
argument against the reality of what is termed in 
theological lan.guage, grace, or even against the pro- 
priety of that use of the word. For it matters little 
what words are employed upon any subject, provid- 
ed the sense affixed to them be clearly defined ; and 
if there is various evidence in Scripture, as the Ar- 


minians and Calviiiists agree in believing, that the 
Spirit of God does act immediately upon the mind 
of man, there is no word by which an influence so 
fraught with blessings can be more fitly marked 
than by the general word %a^/c, grace ; even although 
the passages, where the sacred writers have applied 
the word in that sense, were more equivocal than 
they really are. 

With all these points of agreement, the differ- 
ence between the Arminian and Calvinistic systems, 
as to the application of the remedy, is most material, 
because it respects the nature and the efhcacy of that 
influence upon the mind, which in both systems is 
called by the name of grace. The Arminians, who 
believe that the death of Christ was an atonement for 
the sins of the whole world, which by redeeming all 
men from the curse put them into a situation in which 
they may be saved, believe, in conformity to this fun- 
damental principle, that the death of Christ also pur- 
chased for all men means sufficient to bring them to 
salvation. And therefore, as they acknowledge that 
the corruption of human nature opposes obstacles to 
faith and repentance, which our natural powers are 
unable of themselves to surmount, they believe that 
the grace purchased by Christ restores all men to a si- 
tuation, in which they may do those works which are 
well pleasing to God. This grace is called common, be- 
cause it is given indifferently to all ; preventing, be- 
cause it comes before our own endeavours ; exciting, 
because it stirs up our powers, naturally sluggish 
and averse from God. Of some measure of thin 
grace, no man in any situation is supposed to be des- 
titute. It accompanies the light of nature in heatlien 
countries, as well as the preaching of the Gospel in 

6 • 



those which are Christian ; and every one who im- 
proves the measure given him is thereby prepared 
for more. From the smallest degrees of this grace, 
and the most unfavourable circumstances in which 
it can be given, those who are not wanting to them- 
selves are certainly conducted to such degrees as pro- 
duce faith and repentance ; and all, whose minds 
have been regenerated by this exciting grace, receive 
what the Arminians call subsequent and co-operating 
grace; — subsequent, because it follows after conver- 
sion ; — co-operating, because it concurs with human 
exertions in producing those moral virtues, which, 
having originated in that grace which is preventing, 
and being carried on to perfection by that which is 
subsequent, are fitly called the fruits of the Spirit. 

As higher degrees of grace are supposed to be 
given in consequence of the improvement of those 
which were previous, the Arminians consider the 
efficacy of all grace as depending upon the 'reception 
which it meets with. They cannot say that it is of 
the nature of grace to be effectual ; for although, 
according to their system, it be given to all with such 
impartiality, that he who believes had not originally 
a larger portion of grace than he who does not be- 
lieve, yet there are many in whom it does not pro- 
duce faith and repentance. It is purely, therefore, 
from the event that grace is to be distinguished as 
effectual or ineffectual ; and the same grace being 
given to all, there is no other cause to which the dif- 
ference in the event can be ascribed, than the differ- 
ence in the character of those by whom it is received. 
As the event of the grace of God is conceived to de- 
pend upon men, it follows, according to this system, 
that the grace of God may be resisted, i. e, the ob- 


stacles opposed by the perverseness of the human 
will may be such as finally to prevent the effect of 
this grace. Accordingly, the Arminians find them- 
selves obliged to give such an account of the nature 
of grace as admits of its being resistible. It was 
thus described by the first Arminians : — Lenis sua- 
sio ; nohiUssimus agendi modus in converslGne homi- 
mnn, qucefiat suasionihus, viorall ratione consensum 
f)oluntatis iwoducens. The English phrase answer- 
ing to this description is Moral Suasion ; and the 
meaning of the phrase is thus explained by the best 
Arminian writers. They conceive that all that im- 
possibility of keeping the commandments of God, 
which arises from the corruption of human nature, 
is removed by the grace of God ; and that, while the 
word of God proposes exhortations, warnings, and in- 
ducements, to man thus restored to the capacity of 
doing what is required of him, the Spirit of God 
opens his understanding to discern the force of these 
things, and is continually present with him, suggest- 
ing good thoughts, inspiring good desires, and, by 
the most seasonable, friendly, and gentle counsel, in- 
clining his mind to his duty. This seasonable, 
friendly, and gentle counsel is called moral suasion ; 
but this counsel may be rejected ; for herein, say 
the Arminians, consists the liberty of man, that with 
every possible reason before him to choose one course 
he may choose another, and the influence of any 
other being cannot be of such a kind as certainly and 
effectually to determine his choice, without destroy- 
ing his nature. After all the assistance and direc- 
tion, therefore, which he can derive from the grace 
of God, he may believe or he may not believe ; he 
may return to the habitual practice of sin after he 



has been converted; and, by abusing those means 
of grace which he had formerly improved, he may in 
the end fail of attaining salvation. 

The account, which I have now given of the Ar- 
minian doctrine with regard to the nature and effi- 
cacy of the grace of God, is agreeable to the three 
last of the five articles in which the early Arminians 
stated their system. In these articles they discover 
an anxiety to vindicate themselves from the charge 
of Pelagianism, or from the appearance of ascribing 
so much to the natural powers of man, as to render 
the grace of God unnecessary. 

3. Man has not saving faith from himself, and, 
being in a state of depravity and sin, he cannot by 
the exercise of his own free will, think or do any 
thing that is truly good ; but it is necessary that he 
be regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through 
his Holy Spirit, in his mind, his affections, or his 
will, and all his faculties, that he may understand, 
think, will, and perform any good thing ; according 
to that saying of Christ, " Without me ye can do 

4. The fourth article, after saying that this grace 
of God is the beginning, the progress, and the perfec- 
tion of all good, so that all our good works are to 
be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ, adds these 
words : But as to the manner of the operation of 
this grace, it is not irresistible ; for it is said in 
Scripture of many, that they resisted the Holy 

5. The fifth article, after mentioning the strength 
and assistance furnished to those who are united to 
Christ by a true faith, expresses a doubt whether 
they may not by their own negligence make ship- 


wreck of a good conscience, and forfeit their interest 
in Christ. The later Arminians laid aside the lan- 
guage of doubt upon this subject, and said without 
hesitation, that those who, being united to Christ by- 
faith, had been partakers of his grace, might through 
their own fault fall from a state of grace. 

The Calvinistic system gives a ver}^ different view 
of the application of the remedy ; and the difference 
may be traced back to its fundamental principle, that 
Christ did not die for all men, but for those of every 
nation who are in the end to be saved. Them only 
he delivers from the curse, and for them only he 
purchases those influences of the Spirit by which 
faith and repentance are produced. Others enjoy in 
common with them, the gifts of nature, the bounties 
of providence, the light of conscience ; and all who 
live in a Christian country, by the motives proposed 
in the Gospel, and by the ordinances of religion may 
be restrained from many open sins, and excited to 
many good actions. But that grace, which forms in 
the mind of man the character connected with sal- 
vation, is confined to those whom God hath chosen. 
Being conferred in execution of an unchangeable de- 
cree, it cannot fail of attaining its effect ; and, being 
the action of the Creator upon the mind of the crea- 
ture, it is able to surmount all that opposition and 
resistance which arises from the corruption of human 
nature. It is distinguished by the Calvinists from 
that continual influence which the Supreme Cause 
exerts throughout his creation, and by which he up- 
holds his creatures in being, preserves the faculties 
which he gave them, and may, in some sense, be said 
to concur with all their actions. And it is conceiv- 



ed to be an extraordinary supernatural influence of 
the Creator, by which the disorders which sin had 
introduced into the faculties of human nature are 
corrected, and the mind is transformed and renewed, 
and created again unto good works. There have not 
been wanting some who have attempted to explain 
the manner of this supernatural influence. But the 
wiser Calvinists, without entangling themselves in 
an inextricable labyrinth of expressions which after 
every attempt to affix clear ideas to them must remain 
unintelligible, rest in that caution which our Lord 
gave, when he spoke to Nicodemus upon this sub- 
ject. John iii. 7, 8. " Marvel not that I said unto 
thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth 
where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, 
but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it 
goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit." 
Although we cannot give a satisfying account of the 
causes why the wind blows at a particular season 
from one quarter, or why it ceases just when it does, 
we do not doubt of the fact, because we see and feel 
its effects. So, although the manner of the opera- 
tion of the Spirit is not an object of sense, and can- 
not be explained by words, we may be assured of 
the reality of the operation from its effects. When 
we see such a change upon the disposition and the 
life of the regenerate, as cannot be accounted for by 
any natural means, we are led to acknowledge the 
power of the Divine Agent by whom the change was 
produced ; and we perceive the propriety with which 
the Scriptures, in speaking of this change, make use 
of such expressions as being born again, creation, 
resurrection. For the figure used in these expres- 


sions tends to mislead, unless the action marked by 
them implies an exertion of i^ower, the effect of which 
is independent of any co-operation or any resistance 
in the subject of the action ; and therefore they may 
be considered as indicating such an operation of the 
Spirit, as effectually removes that corruption of the 
powers of human nature which nothing less can re- 

This supernatural influence is seldom exerted with- 
out the use of means ; in other words, although the 
means of removing the corruption of human nature 
derive their efficacy entirely from the Spirit of God, 
yet, in accomplishing this object, the Spirit of God 
ordinarily employs the exhortations, the promises, and 
the threatenings of the word of God, the counsel and 
example of good men, and all those instruments which 
have a tendency to improve the human mind. Hence 
that change which is the work of the Spirit, is not 
instantaneous, but consists of many previous steps, 
of many preparatory dispositions and affections, and 
of a gradual progress in goodness ; — by all which a 
man is conducted from that state of degeneracy which 
is natural to the posterity of Adam, to the posses- 
sion of that character without which none can be 
saved. His understanding is enlightened with the 
knowledge of the truth; his will is inclined to follow 
the dictates of his understanding ; he pursues a cer- 
tain line of conduct, because it is his choice ; and he 
has the feeling of the most perfect liberty, because he 
becomes walling to do that from which formerly he 
w^as averse. Augustine expressed the efiect of this 
influence by the significant phrase, victrix delectatio ; 
a delight in the commandments of God, w^hich over- 
comes every inferior appetite ; and all the Calvinists, 


when they speak of the efficacy of divine grace, would 
be understood to mean that the grace of God acts 
upon man, not as a machine but as a reasonable be- 

As the grace of God, which is conceived to derive 
its efficacy from his power of fulfilling his purpose 
in those for v/hom it is destined, overcomes all the 
opposition with which it is at first received, so it 
continues to be exerted amidst all the frailty and 
corruption which adhere to human nature in a pre- 
sent state. It is not exerted to such a degree as to 
preserve any man from every kind of sin. For God 
is pleased to teach Christians humility, by keeping 
up the remembrance of that state out of which they 
were delivered, and to quicken their aspirations after 
higher degrees of goodness, by leaving them to strug- 
gle with temptation, and to feel manifold infirmities. 
But although no man is enabled in this life to attain 
to perfection, the grace of God preserves those to 
whom it is given, from drawing back to perdition. 
The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints flows 
necessarily from that decree, by which they were 
from eternity chosen to salvation, and from the man- 
ner in which according to the Caivinistic system the 
decree was executed ; and all the principles of the 
system must be renounced before we can believe that 
any of those for whom Christ died, and who conse- 
quently become partakers of his grace, can fall from 
that grace either finally — by which is meant that 
they shall not in the end be saved, — or totally, by 
which is meant that they shall at any period of their 
lives commit sins so heinous and so presumptuous, 
and persist in them so obstinately, as at that period 
to forfeit entirely the divine favour. 


All the parts of that delineation which I have now 
given, are found in Chapters IX. X. XVII. of the 
Confession of Faith. The whole doctrine is not ex- 
pressed in the tenth Article of the Church of Eng- 
land ; but we consider it to be implied in the seven- 




After the view wnich I have given of the two 
great systems of opinion concerning the extent and 
the application of that remedy which the Gospel 
brings, we are prepared to estimate the difficulties 
that adhere to them. As every system, w^hich, 
with our limited information, we can hold upon 
subjects so extensive and so magnificent, must be 
attended with difficulties, it is not incumbent upon 
us to answer all the questions which our system 
may suggest; and we have given a sufficient answer 
to many of them, when we show that the same 
questions, or others not more easily solved, are sug- 
gested by the opposite system. But as difficulties 
are of real weight when they imply a contradiction 
to some received truth, we are called to defend the 
system of opinion which we hold, by showing that 
it is not subversive of the nature of man or incon- 
sistent with the nature of God. 



The Arminian system appears upon a general 
view, most satisfying to a pious and benevolent 
mind. Pardon procured by the death of Christ for 
all that repent and believe, when conjoined with an 
administration of the means of grace sufficient to 
bring all men to faith and repentance, forms a 
remedy suited to the extent of the disease ; a 
remedy from which none are excluded by any cir- 
cumstance foreign to themselves, and which, if it 
does not in the end deliver all from the evils of sin, 
fails, not through any defect in its own nature or 
any partiality in the Being from whom it proceed- 
ed, but purely through the obstinacy and perverse- 
ness of those to whom it is offered. But while this 
account of the Gospel appears to derive, from its 
correspondence with our notions of the goodness 
and justice of God, the strongest internal recom- 
mendation, it is found to labour under these three 
difficulties. 1. The supposition of an administra- 
tion of the means of grace sufficient to bring all 
men to faith and repentance, upon which this 
system proceeds, appears to be contradicted by fact. 
2. This system, while in words it ascribes all to the 
grace of God, does in effect resolve our salvation 
into something independent of that grace. 3. This 
system seems to imply a failure in the purpose of 
the Almighty, which is not easily reconciled with 
our notions of his sovereignty. 

1. It does not appear agreeable to fact, that there 
is an administration of the means of grace sufficieuc 


to bring all men to faith and repentance. For al- 
though there is nothing in the nature of the Gospel 
to prevent it from becoming an universal religion, 
yet the fact is that by much the greatest part of the 
world does not enjoy the benefit of its instructions. * 
And although the imperfect propagation of the 
Gospel may be owing to the corruption and indiffe- 
rence of Christians, yet with regard to the inhabi- 
tants of those nations to whom the most distant 
intimation of its existence never extended, it cannot 
surely be said that there has been any want of in- 
quiry on their part. The Arminians are obliged to 
resolve this manifest inequality in dispensing the 
advantages for attaining faith and repentance into 
the sovereignty of God,' who imparts his free gifts 
to whom he will. Still however they do not aban- 
don their principle ; for they contend that the grace 
of God accompanies the light of nature, and that all 
who improve this universal revelation are conducted 
by that grace to higher degrees of knowledge. But 
here also the fact does not appear to accord with 
their system. For the light of nature, although 
universal, is most unequal. In many countries 
superstition is rendered so inveterate by education, 
custom, and example, and the state of society is so 
unfavourable to the improvement of the mind, that 
none of the inhabitants has the means of extricat- 
ing himself from error ; and even in those more 
enlightened parts of the world, where, by the culti- 
vation of the powers of reason or the advantages of 
foreign instruction, men have risen to more honour- 
able conceptions of the Deity, there does not appear 
any possibility of their attaining to the faith of 

* Book I. Ch. ix. 4. 


Christ. For, as the apostle speaks, Rom. x. 17, 
" Faith Cometh hy hearing, and hearing by the 
word of God. How shall they believe in him of 
whom they have not heard? and how shall they 
hear without a preacher ?" The vSocinians, indeed, 
say, that all in every situation who act up to the 
light afforded them, may be saved, without regard 
being had to the merits of Christ. But this opinion 
the Arminians strongly disclaim, and choose rather 
to say, that those who improve the measure of 
knowledge derived from the works of nature, and 
the grace of God which accompanies it, are, in some 
extraordinary manner, made acquainted with the 
doctrine of Christ, so as to attain before they die 
that faith in him which the means afforded them 
could not produce. And thus the Arminians are 
obliged, with regard to the greatest part of man- 
kind, to give up their fundamental position, that 
sufficient means of grace are administered to all, and 
to have recourse to the production of faith by an im- 
mediate impression of the Spirit of God upon the 
mind. The Arminians, feeling the force of this 
difficulty, leave — piously and wisely leave — the fate 
of that great part of mankind who do not enjoy the 
Gospel, to the mercy of God in Christ ; and, in their 
confessions of faith, they confine their doctrine con- 
cerning the universal application of the remedy, to 
those who are called by the word. To this call 
they give the name of an election to grace and to 
the means of salvation, which they distinguish from 
an election to glory. Election to glory is the desti- 
nation of eternal happiness to those who persevere 
in faith and good works. Election to grace is un- 
derstood to be common to all who live in a Christian 


country, and to imply the giving to eveiy one, by 
the preaching of the word and the power of the 
Spirit accompanying it, that grace which is sufficient 
to produce faith and to promote repentance unto 

But even after the Arminians have thus corrected 
and limited their doctrine with regard to the suffi- 
ciency of the means of grace, there remain two ob- 
jections to it in point of fact. The first arises from 
the very unequal circumstances in which the in- 
habitants of different Christian countries are placed. 
In some countries the Scriptures are given to the 
people, that they may search them ; in others, they 
are withheld. In some countries the Gospel is ex- 
hibited in a corrupt form, which tends to degrade 
the understanding and pervert the moral conduct ; 
in others, it is presented in its native simplicity, as 
cherishing every exalted affection and forming the 
mind to virtue. In the same countries there are 
infinite diversities amongst individuals as to their 
intellectual powers, the measure of their informa- 
tion, their employments, their pursuits, their edu- 
cation, their society, the inducements to act pro- 
perly, or the temptations to sin which arise from 
their manner of life. All these circumstances, hav- 
ing an effect upon the moral character, must be re- 
garded in the Arminian system as a branch of the 
administration of the means of grace, because they 
are instruments which the Spirit of God may em- 
ploy in that moral influence which he is considered 
as exerting over the mind of man. By means of 
these circumstances, some are placed in a more 
favourable situation for attaining faith than others ; 
the same moral suasion, by which some are pre- 


served from almost any approach to iniquity, be- 
comes insufficient to restrain others from gross 
transgression ; and the Sovereign of the universe, 
who has ordained all these circumstances, thus ap- 
pears to discriminate, in respect of the means of 
salvation, those very persons who in this system 
are said to be equally elected to grace. It may be 
said, indeed, that the secret operation of divine 
grace counterbalances the diversity of outward cir- 
cumstances ; so that, taking the internal assistance 
and the external means together, all who live in a 
Christian country are upon a footing. This is the 
method of answering the objection adopted by 
Grotius, and other able defenders of Arminianism. 
But it is a departure from the principles of that 
system ; for it is substituting, in place of an admi- 
nistration of the means of grace sufficient for all, an 
administration, in many instances defective ; and, 
in place of an internal grace common and equal to 
all, a grace imparted differently to different persons, 
according to circumstances. 

The second objection, in point of fact, to the sup- 
position that in every Christian country there is 
such an administration of the means of grace as is 
sufficient to bring all men to faith, arises from this 
undeniable truth, that, amongst those to whom the 
Gospel is preached, and in whose circumstances there 
is not that kind of diversity which can account for 
the difference, some believe and some do not believe. 
Some, with all the outward advantages which the 
publication of the Gospel affords, continue the ser- 
vants of sin ; whilst others attain, by the same ad- 
vantages, that measure of perfection which is con- 
sistent with the present state of humanity. From 


this fact the Calvinists infer the reality of an in- 
ward discriminating grace, which appears to them 
the only satisfying account of the different fruits 
that proceed from the same external advantages, and 
which, although it is not, like the diversity of out- 
ward circumstances, an object of sense, may be cer- 
tainly known by its effects. But the Arminians, 
instead of admitting this inference, readily answer 
the objection which seems to arise from this fact, by 
saying, that the grace which is sufficient to all, 
proves ineffectual with regard to many, because it is 
opposed. It is their own fault — the voluntary re- 
sistance which they might not have made, that pre- 
vents the grace of God from producing in them the 
effect which it was intended to produce in all, and 
which it actually does produce in others. To those 
who repent and believe the same sufficient grace is 
imparted ; by them also it might be resisted ; but 
because they do not resist, it proves effectual. Now, 
this is an answer to the objection ; that is, it gives 
a reason why that grace, which the Arminians say 
is sufficient to all who hear the Gospel, proves inef- 
fectual with regard to many. But it remains to be 
inquired, whether the reason is such as ought to en- 
ter into a theological system, or whether the admit- 
ting of this reason is not pregnant with objections 
no less formidable to their system, than the fact 
which it was brought to explain. For, 

2. The second difficulty under which the Armi- 
nian system labours is this, that, while in words it 
ascribes all to the grace of God, it does in effect re- 
solve our salvation into something independent of 
that grace. 

It was the principle of the Pelagians tliat thr 



grace of God respects only the remission of sins, and 
that it is not given in adjiUoreum^ ne in posterum 
peccata committantur. Another of their aphorisms 
was, ad scientiam nos habere gratiam Christiy iion 
ad charitatem, Arminius and his followers were 
most anxious to guard their system from the ap- 
pearance of approaching to these principles. They 
acknowledged that man in his present state is not 
able to think or to do any thing truly good of him- 
self; that he must be renewed in all his faculties 
by the Spirit of God ; and that all our good works 
are to be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. 
They renounce, by the terms in which the articles 
of their faith are expressed, even that modification 
of the Pelagian principles which was introduced 
soon after they were first published, and which is 
known by the name of Semi-Pelagianism. It was 
held by the Semi-Pelagians, that, although man is 
unable to bring any good work to perfection, yet the 
first motions towards a good life, sorrow for sin, de- 
sire of pardon, purposes of obedience, and the first 
acts of faith in Christ, are the natural exercise of 
human powers, proceeding from the constitution and 
circumstances of man, without any supernatural 
grace ; that to all in whom God observes these 
preparatory dispositions he gives, for the sake of 
Christ, his Holy Spirit ; and that, by the influence 
of this Spirit continually assisting their powers, they 
are enabled to make progress, and to persevere in 
the life of faith and obedience which they had be- 
gun. But the Arminians wish to discriminate them- 
selves from the Semi-Pelagians, by mentioning, in 
their confessions of faith, a preventing grace, gra- 
tia pra!vemens sen prceccdanea; -which comes be- 


fore, not only our works, but our purposes and de- 
sires of doing good ; — by saying that the grace of 
God is the beginning as well as the progress and 
perfection of all good ; — and by acknowledging 
that, without this grace, man cannot understand, 
or think, or will any thing that is good. All those 
words, however, which they multiply in speak- 
ing of the grace of God, are accompanied with a 
clause which very much enervates their significancy. 
For the conclusion of the fourth article runs thus : 
** With regard to the manner of the operation of that 
grace, it is not irresistible ; for it is said, in the se- 
venth chapter of the book of Acts, and in many other 
places of Scripture, that they resisted the Holy Spi- 
rit." And, in place of the doubt expressed in the 
fifth article, whether those who have been united to 
Christ by true faith m^ay not, by their own negli- 
gence, fall from grace, the Arminians, in the subse- 
quent confessions of their faith, speak without hesi- 
tation of Christians who fall, through their own 
fault, from the faith which had been produced in 
them by the Spirit of God, and with regard to whom 
all the actions of the Spirit of God cease, because 
they do not fulfil the conditions required on their 
part. It is to be observed, that by the grace which 
may be resisted, the Arminians do not mean merely 
that grace which calls men to the knowledge of the 
Gospel, and furnishes them with the outward means 
of salvation, but that influence exerted by the Spirit 
of God upon the mind, which they are accustomed 
to describe by a multitude of words ; and what they 
mean by calling this grace irresistible, is not merely 
that opposition is made to it ; for those, who hold 
the corruption of human nature in the highest de- 


gree, are the most ready to admit t'iis opi^osition. 
It is matter of experience ; and none can deny that 
it is often mentioned in Scripture. But the Armi- 
nians, by calling the grace of God resistible, mean 
that it may be defeated ; in other words, that the 
resistance, given by a person whom the Spirit of 
God calls to faith and obedience, may be such as to 
render him unfit for believing and for obeying the 
divine will ; so that he either remains unconverted 
after all the operations of grace upon his soul, or he 
returns after a temporary conversion to the state in 
which he was before. Here, then, is the grace of 
God supposed to be unable to attain its effect of it- 
self, and that effect supposed to depend upon the 
concurrence of man. It is allowed by the Armini- 
ans, that none can be saved without the grace of 
God ; but it is not allowed that the reason why some 
are saved and not others, is to be found in that grace. 
For while the grace of God and the will of man are 
conceived to be partial causes, concurring in the pro- 
duction of the same effect, the grace of God is only 
a remote cause of salvation — a cause operating in- 
differently upon all, sufficient indeed but often inef- 
fectual. The proximate, specific cause of salva- 
tion, by which the effects of the universal cause are 
discriminated, is to be found in the qvialities of the 
subject which receives the grace of God, since upon 
these qualities it depends whether this grace shall 
overcome or shall be counteracted. 

The Arminians attempt to remove this objection 
to their system, by reasoning in the following man- 
ner. Although God is omnipotent, he cannot put 
forth his irresistible power in communicating his 
grace to the mind of man, because he must govern 



his creatures according to their natures. But a grace 
which cannot be resisted would destroy the morality 
of human actions ; and, instead of improving the 
character of a reasonable agent, would leave no room 
for any thing that deserves the name of virtue. It 
follows, therefore, from the nature of man, and the 
purpose for which grace is bestowed upon him, that 
it must be left in his power and in his choice, whe- 
ther he will comply with it or not ; in other words, 
the grace of God must be resistible in this sense and 
to this amount, that its efficacy must depend upon 
the concurrence of the being on whom it is exerted. 
This reasoning of the Arminians constitutes one 
of their chief objections to the Calvinistic system, 
which represents the mind of man as effectually de- 
termined by the grace of God ; and if the objection 
has all the weight which the reasoning seems to 
imply, that system cannot be true ; for it is impossi- 
ble that that can be a just account of the grace of 
God, which is inconsistent with the character of 
man, and subversive of morality. The objection 
will be discussed, when we advance to the difficul- 
ties that belong to the Calvinistic system. In the 
mean time, it is to be remembered that the Armini- 
ans, in their zeal to steer clear of this difficulty, have 
adopted such an account of the grace of God, as im- 
plies that, antecedently to its operations, the minds 
of some men are disposed to comply viath it, and the 
minds of others to reject it ; and that, in whatever 
words they choose to magnify the grace of God, they 
cannot regard it as the cause of this difierence. For 
if the grace which is given indifferently to two 
persons, John and Judas, v,^hich is sufficient for 
both, and whieh may be resisted by both, is not 


resisted by John, and in consequence of that non-re- 
sistance conducts him to salvation, but is resisted by- 
Judas, and in consequence of that resistance proves 
ineffectual with regard to him, the true cause of the 
efficacy and inefficacy of the grace lies in the minds 
of these two persons. " Thou didst give to my 
neighbour," may the former say, " as to me : but my 
will has improved what thou gavest, while the will 
of my neighbour has resisted all thine operations." 
This language, which the Arminians must suppose 
every one that is saved entitled to hold to the Al^ 
mighty, by implying that man has something inde- 
pendent of the grace of God whereof he may boast, and 
whereby he may distinguish himself from other men 
in the sight of God, not only contradicts the doctrine 
of original sin, and those lessons of humility which 
the Gospel uniformly teaches, but seems also to in- 
volve the Arminians themselves in contradiction. 
For while they say that no man is able of himself 
to understand, to think, or to will what is good, they 
suppose that only some men retain that carnal mind 
which the Scriptures call enmity to God, and by 
which the grace of God is defeated ; but that others 
are at all times ready of themselves to yield that 
compliance with the influences of the Spirit, by which 
they are rendered effectual. And thus, while in 
words they ascribe all good works to the grace of 
God, they suspend the beginning, the progress, and 
the continuance of these good works upon the will 
of man. 

3. The last difficulty which adheres to the Armi- 
nian system is, that it proceeds upon the supposition 
of a failure of the purpose of the Almighty, which 


4t is not easy to reconcile with our notions of his 

In this system, the Ahnighty is conceived to have 
a purpose of bringing all men to salvation by Christ, 
and, in execution of this purpose, to furnish all men 
with sufficient means of salvation : yet notwithstand- 
ing this purpose, and the execution of it by the grace 
of God, many continue in sin. Dr. Clarke has stated 
the difficulty, and has given the Arminian solutiou 
of it in one of his sermons upon the grace of God ; 
and as it is manifest from all his writings that he is 
there speaking his own sentiments, it will not be 
thought that I do any injustice to the Arminian sys- 
tem, by stating the solution of this third difficulty, 
in the words of an author so distinguished for the 
clearness of his conceptions, and the accuracy of his 
expressions, as Dr. Clarke. " The design of God 
in the gracious declarations of the Gospel is to bring 
all men, by the promise of pardon, to repentance 
and amendment here, and thereby to eternal salva- 
tion hereafter. The only difficulty here is, that 
which arises and indeed very obviously, from com- 
paring the actual event of things, with the declara- 
^tions of God's gracious intention and design. If 
God designed by the gracious terms of the Gospel 
to bring all men to salvation, how comes the extent 
of it to be confined within so narrow a compass, and 
the effect of it to be in experience so inconsiderable, 
even where in profession it seems to have univer- 
sally prevailed ? The answer to this is, that in all 
moral matters, the intention or design of God never 
signifies (as it does always in natural things) an in- 
tention of the event actually and necessarily to be 
^.accomplished ; but (which alone is consistent with 


the nature of moral things) an intention of all the 
means necessary on his part to the putting that 
event into the power of the proper and immedi-j^ 
ate agents." * 

According to this solution, that determination of; 
the actions of men, which forms part of the Calvin-»; 
istic system, is inconsistent with the nature of man, 
because the intention of God in moral matters never 
can go on to the event without destroying the cha- 
racter of moral agents. This objection to the Cal- 
vinistic system is the same in substance with that 
which I stated under the former head, and will be 
considered afterwards. In the mean time, it is to be 
remembered that the Arminians are obliged either to 
deny that there is in God an intention to bring all 
men to salvation, or to admit that a great part of 
what is done in his creation is independent of his 
will. For although all the actions of wicked men in 
this world, and their everlasting condition hereafter, 
are, according to the Arminian system, foreseen by 
God, and being foreseen may be connected in the 
great plan of his providence with other events which 
are under his power, yet they are foreseen as arising^ 
from a cause over which he has no control, — from 
the will of man, which, after all his operations, de- 
termined itself in many cases to choose the very op- 
posite of that which he intended, and endeavoured 
to make it choose. If it shall appear that this eman- 
cipation of the actions of the creature from the di- 
rection of the Creator is an unavoidable consequence 
of the character of reasonable beings, we must ac- 
quiesce in what appears to us an imperfection in the 

* Serm. XII. Vol. II. 


divine government. But until the inconsistency be- 
tween the providence of God, I mean not merely his 
foresight but his determination, and the freedom of 
his reasonable creatures be clearly established, we 
should be led, by all the views of the sovereignty of 
the Creator which reason and Scripture give us, to 
suppose that no part of the universe is withdrawn 
from his control : and the harmony of the great 
plan of Providence must appear to us inconsistent 
with the motley combination of natural events ap- 
pointed by God, and actions of his creatures contra- 
ry to his purposB. 

The amount of the three difficulties which have 
now been stated, may be thus shortly summed up. 
The Arminian system lays down as a fundamental 
position, an administration of the means of grace 
sufficient to bring all men to faith and repentance ; 
a position which it is not possible to reconcile with 
what appears to be the fact : it resolves the salva- 
tion of those who are saved into the character of 
their mind antecedently to the operations of divine 
grace ; and it resolves the final reprobation of others 
into actions performed by the creatures of God, op- 
posite to those which he furnished them with all the 
means necessary for performing, and conducting to 
an end different from that which he intended. 


The Arminian system was an attempt made by 
those who disclaimed Socinian principles, to get rid 


of the difficulties which belong to the Calvinistic sys- 
tem. The embarrassment and inconsistency with 
which we have seen that attempt to be attended, and 
from which very able men have not found it possi- 
ble to disentangle themselves, is a proof that it is not 
an easy matter to devise a middle system between 
Socinianism and Calvinism. But if Calvinism be 
really involved in those insuperable difficulties which 
are perpetually in the mouths of its adversaries ; if 
it subverts the nature of man, and presents the most 
imvvorthy conceptions of the Father of all, it cannot 
be true. The attempts to get rid of these difficulties 
may have been hitherto unsuccessful : but it is im- 
possible to adopt any system to which such difficul- 
ties adhere ; and it were better, it may be thought, 
to acquiesce under a consciousness of our own igno- 
rance in the embarrassment of the Arminians, or 
even to advance to the simple unencumbered scheme 
of Socinus, than by following what we account truth 
far beyond the measure of our understandings, to 
confound all our notions both of God and of man. 

Before we come, however, to this desperate reso- 
lution, it is proper to bestow a very careful examin- 
ation upon the difficulties which belong to the Cal- 
vinistic system. They may be magnified by the mis- 
representations of its enemies : they may have arisen 
from some weakness in the reasoning or some nar- 
rowness in the views of its friends : they may be no 
other difficulties than such as our minds must always 
expect to feel in every effi^rt to form a conception of 
the obscure and magnificent subjects about which 
the two systems are conversant : and they may be- 
long to the Arminian, in as far as it keeps clear of 
Socinianism, no less than to the Calvinistic. I enter 


upon the examination of these difficulties with a 
thorough conviction of its being possible to state 
them in such a manner, that they shall not afford 
any reasonable man a just ground for rejecting the 
system : and my examination of them will have the 
appearance, which in my situation is decent, of an 
apology for Calvinism. I certainly desire that every 
one of my students should think as favourably of 
that system as I do, because, if they become licen- 
tiates or mhiisters of this church, they have to sub- 
scribe a solemn declaration, that they believe it to be 
true. But their conviction ought to arise from their 
own study — not from my teaching. They bring with 
them, from their previous studies, an acquaintance 
with the leading principles upon which my apology 
turns, sufficient to enable them to judge how far it is 
a fair one : and even had I that attachment to a sys- 
tem which I am conscious I have not, which would 
lead me to defend it by misrepresentation, I must be 
sensible that this would be the certain method of 
giving them an unfavourable impression of the sys- 
tem which I wish to recommend. 

The objections to the Calvinistic system, however 
multiplied in words or in divisions, may be reduced 
to two. It is conceived to be inconsistent with the 
nature of man as a free moral agent ; and it is con- 
ceived to represent the Almighty in a light repug- 
nant to our notions of his moral attributes. 



The Calviriistic system is conceived to be inconsist- 
ent with the nature of man as a free moral agent. 

It is acknowledged by all that liberty is essential 
to the character of a moral agent ; that we are not 
accountable for those actions which we are com- 
pelled to perform ; that in every part of our conduct, 
in which external force does not operate upon the 
motions of our bodies, v/e have a feeling that what- 
ever we do we might have done otherwise ; that we 
deserve praise for our good actions, because we might 
have acted wrong ; and that we deserve blame for 
our bad actions, because we might have acted well. 
In these points all are agreed. But it is said by 
those who do not hold the Calvinistic system, that 
the effectual irresistible grace, which, according to 
that system, is communicated to the elect, and by 
which they are infallibly determined to a certain line 
of conduct, degrades them from the character of 
agents to that of patients, — machines acted upon by 
another being, and thus destroys the morality of those 
very actions which they are determined to perform. 
As it is impossible that a religion proceeding from 
the Author of human nature can so directly subvert 
the principles of that nature, the manner of applying 
the Gospel remedy, which is essential to the Calvin- 
istic system, is considered as of itself a demonstra- 
tive proof that tliis system exhibits a false view of 
Christianity. ;p 

The whole force of this objection turns upon the 
ideas that are formed of the libertv of a moral ao-ent. 


To those who form one idea of liberty, the objection 
constitutes an insurmountable difficulty. To those 
who form another idea, it admits of a satisfying an- 

There is one idea of liberty, adopted and strenu- 
ously defended by Dr. Reid, in his Essays on the 
Active Powers, which I shall give in his words. " By 
the libert}^ of a moral agent, I understand a power 
over the determinations of his own will. If, in any 
action, he had power to will what he did, or not to 
will it, in that action he is free. But if, in every 
voluntary action, the determination of his will be the 
necessary consequence of something involuntary in 
the state of his mind, or of something in his external 
circumstances, he is not free ; he has not what I call 
the liberty of a moral agent, but is subject to neces- 
sity."* The liberty here defined is sometimes call- 
ed liberty of indifference, because it is supposed that, 
after all the circumstances which can lead to the 
choice of one thing are presented, the mind remains 
in equilihiio^ till she proceeds to exert her own sove- 
reign power in making the choice. The exertions 
of this power are conceived to be independent of 
every thing external : the mind alone determines ; 
and there is no fixed infallible connexion between 
her determinations and any foreign object. 

The definition of liberty given by Dr. Reid is that 
which Arminian writers adopt. Some of them speak 
with more accuracy than others ; but all of them 
agree that the liberty of a moral agent consists in the 
self-determining power; that although he is fre- 
quently determined in his actions and resolutions by 

* Essay IV. ch. i. 


some cause foreign to the mind, he is not constantly 
and invariably so determined ; and that as the mind 
has a power of choosing without any reason, it is in 
every case uncertain how far she will exert this pow- 
er, and consequently it is uncertain what the choice 
of the mind will prove, until it be made. Upon this 
foundation the Arminians build the impossibility of 
an absolute decree electing particular persons to 
eternal life, and giving them the means of attaining 
it. They say that faith and repentance, being the 
exercise of a self-determining power, originate pure- 
ly in the mind ; that the Almighty cannot give an 
efficacious determining grace without destroying this 
self-determining power ; and therefore that all the 
decrees of God, in relation to moral agents, were 
either from eternity suspended upon their own de- 
terminations, or become peremptory only by his fore- 
seeing what these determinations are to be. 

Although this account of the liberty of moral 
agents be adopted by the Arminians, it is not easily 
reconciled with the opinion which they profess to 
hold, with regard to the extent and the infallibility 
of the divine foreknowledge. For as the determi- 
nations of free agents are the exertions of a power 
which is conceived to be unconnected and uncon- 
trolled in its operations, there does not appear to 
us any method by which they can be certainly fore- 
known. When a future event is connected with 
any thing present, that connexion is a principle of 
knowledge with regard to it : the more intimate 
the connexion is, the future event may be the more 
certainly known ; and if the connexion be indisso- 
luble, a being to whom it is known is as certain 
that the future event will exist, as that any present 


object now is. But if a future event has no con- 
nexion with any thing present, it cannot be seen in 
its cause ; and the Socinian conclusion seems to be 
the natural one, that it cannot be foreseen at all. 
The Arminians, indeed, distinguish their system 
from Socinianism by rejecting this conclusion. For 
although they consider the actions of moral agents 
to be contingent in this sense of the word, that they 
are not connected with any preceding event as their 
cause, and although they do not pretend to explain 
the manner in which such events can be certainly 
foreknown, yet they admit their being foreknown 
by God, and upon his infallible foreknowledge of 
them they build what they call the decree of elec- 

The difficulty of reconciling what has been called 
liberty of indifference with the infallible foreknow- 
ledge of God, is not the only objection to this ac- 
count of liberty. Liberty belongs to an agent, not 
to a faculty. A power in the mind to determine 
its own determinations is either unmeaning, or sup- 
poses, contrary to the first principles of philosophy, 
something to arise without a cause ; and it lands 
those by whom it is defended in various inconsis- 
tencies. These points it is not my business to state 
more particularly. They are unfolded in the chap- 
ter of Mr. Locke's Essay, entitled, On Power ; and 
they are elucidated with much metaphysical acute- 
ness, and with great fulness of illustration, in Ed- 
wards's Essay on Free-will. On the other hand. 
Dr. Clarke has stated the Arminian account of 
liberty in a close and guarded manner, — in a form 
the most accurate, and the least objectionable, that 
the subject will admit of. This statement occurfe 


in different parts of Dr. Clarke's works ; particu- 
larly in his Demonstration of the Being and Attri- 
butes of God, and in some of his replies to papers 
of Leibnitz. One of Dr. Whitby's discourses on 
the Five Points is an essay on the freedom of the 
will of man. The Arminian account of liberty is 
fully stated by King in his Essay on the Origin of 
Evil ; and there is a defence of it, loose, but copious 
and plausible, in the Essay already referred to, by 
Dr. Reid, On the Liberty of moral agents. 

Without pursuing the investigation how far 
liberty of indifference is rational and consistent, I 
proceed to state the grounds of that other idea of 
the liberty of moral agents, which is essential and 
fundamental in the Calvinistic system. 

The liberty of a moral agent consists in the 
power of acting according to his choice ; and those 
actions are free, which are performed without any 
external compulsion or restraint, in consequence of 
the determinations of his own mind. The determi- 
nations of the mind are formed agreeably to the 
laws of its nature, by the exercise of its powers in 
attention, deliberation, and choice : they are its own 
determinations, because they proceed upon the views 
which it entertains of the subject in reference to 
which it determines ; and the manner in which the 
determinations are formed implies that essential 
distinction between mind and matter, in conse- 
quence of which mind is by its constitution suscep- 
tible of a moral character. Matter is acted upon by 
other objects, and receives from this impulse a par- 
ticular figure or motion; but it has no consciousness 
of the change induced upon its state, no powers to 
put forth in accomplishing the change, no choice of 


the effect which is to follow. There is a physical 
impossibility that the effect can be any other than 
that which may be calculated from taking into ac- 
covmt the quantity and direction of the impulse, in 
conjunction with the size, the quality, and the situ- 
ation of the body which receives it. But this indif- 
ference to every kind of impression, which enters 
into our conception of body, and in consequence of 
which we give it the epithets passive and inert, is 
repugnant to our idea of mind. We conceive that 
the actions of a man originate in the exertions of 
his mind ; that powers are there put forth ; that 
the mind makes a selection out of many objects, any 
one of which it w^as not physically impossible to 
choose ; that in the preference given to those means 
w^hich are employed to bring about an end, there is 
a choice — a will discovered, which renders the mind 
v/orthy of praise or blame, and gives to the conduct 
that direction by which it is denominated either 
good or bad. 

This exertion of the innate powers of action, by 
which mind is distinguished from matter, may be 
called the self-determining power of the mind ; and 
if this were all that the Arminians meant by that 
phrase, the Calvinists would readily join in the use 
of it, But it is to be observed, that a general prin- 
ciple of activity, and a determination to a particular 
mode of action, are totally different : and after we 
have admitted that the actions of a man originate 
in the exertions of his mind, it remains to be in- 
quired what determines the mind to one kind of 
exertion rather than another. The Arminians say 
the mind determines itself ; which to the Calvinists 
•appears to bo no answer to the question, because in 


their opinion it means no more than that the mind 
has a power of determining itself. They hold that 
no event happens, either in the natural or in the 
moral world, without a cause. They hold that God, 
who exists necessarily, is the only Being who has 
the reason of his existence in himself. Because he 
now is, he always was, and he always will be. 
But every other being is contingent, i. e. it may be 
or it may not be : the reason of its existence, there- 
fore, cannot be in itself, but must be in something 
else. The whole universe is contingent, deriving 
the reason of its existence from the will of the 
Creator ; and every particular being and event in 
the universe has that connexion with something 
going before it, by v/hich it forms part of the plan 
of Providence, and, although known to us only 
when it comes into existence, was certain from the 
beginning, and w^as known as certain to Hiui in 
whose mind the Avhole plan originated. 

These general principles, which constitute the 
foundation of the Calvinistic system, are equally ap- 
plicable to the events of the natural and the moral 
w^orld. The various changes upon matter, which 
are the events of the natural world, arise from a suc- 
cession of operations, every one of which, being the 
effect of something previous, becomes in its turn the 
cause of something that follows. The particular 
determinations of mind, which may be considered as 
events arising in the moral world, have their causes 
also which we are accustomed to call motives, that 
is, inducements to act in a particular manner, which 
arise from the objects presented to the mind, and 
the views of those objects which the mind enter- 
tains. The causes of the events in the natural world 


are efficient causes, which act upon matter ; the 
causes of events in the moral world are final causes, 
with reference to which the mind, in which the ac- 
tion originates, proceeds, voluntarily and deliberate- 
ly, to put forth its own powers. But the direction 
of the action towards its final cause is not less cer- 
tain than the direction of the motion produced in an 
inert passive substance, by the force impressed upon 
it, which is the efficient cause of the motion. While 
I continue to view an object in a particular light, 
its influence upon my conduct continues. While I 
propose to myself a certain end, and perceive that 
certain means are necessary to attain that end, I em- 
ploy those means. If I propose other ends, or change 
my opinion as to the means, there will be a conse- 
quent change in my conduct. 

Although the determinations of mind thus admit 
of certainty, by means of their connexion with final 
causes, this certainty is essentially different from ab- 
solute necessity. A thing is said to be necessary, 
when its opposite implies a contradiction. The 
three angles of a triangle must be equal to two right 
angles. Absolute necessity, therefore, excludes the 
possibility of choice, because, when of two things 
one must be, and the other cannot be, there is no 
room for preferring the one to the other. But two 
opposite determinations of mind are equally possi- 
ble ; both being contingent, either the one or the 
other may be ; and the certainty that one of them 
shall be, is only what is called moral necessity, 
which is in truth no necessity at all ; because it 
arises not from the impossibility of the other deter- 
mination, but merely from the sufficiency of the 
causes that are employed to produce the effect. The 


word effect implies, in every case, the previous exist- 
ence of causes sufficient for its production. It appears, 
because they are sufficient ; so that their sufficiency 
involves the certainty of its appearing. In every 
determination that is finally taken, there was this 
sufficiency of causes ; and, consequently, before it 
was taken, there was a certainty that it would be 
such as it is. Yet, in all its determinations, the 
mind acts according to its nature, deliberates, judges, 
chooses, without any feeling of restraint, but with a 
full impression that it is exerting its own powers. 

If the determinations of moral agents are thus 
certainly directed by motives, it is plain that the 
Almighty, whose will gave existence to the universe, 
and by whose pleasure every cause operates and 
every effect is produced, gives their origin to these 
determinations, by the execution of the great plan of 
his providence. For as there entered into his plan 
all those efficient causes whose successive operation 
produces the motions and changes of the material 
world, so there are brought forward, in succession, 
by the execution of this plan, all those objects which 
present themselves to the mind as final causes. 
Could we suppose a being, who, without any influ- 
ence in ordering the connexion of things, foresaw, 
from the beginning, what that connexion would be, 
and had a mind capable of comprehending the whole 
series, he would, at the same time, foresee all the ex- 
ertions of mind in reference to final causes. And if 
the being who possesses this foresight is no other 
than the Almighty, upon whose will the whole dis- 
position of the events that are connected together, 
depends, it is plain that, by altering this disposition, 
he would alter those exertions of mind which it calls 

VOL. 11 r. H 


forth, and, therefore, that all the exertions which are 
actually made constitute a part of his plan. But 
this does not, in the smallest degree, diminish what 
we call the liberty of moral agents. For final causes 
operate upon them according to their nature, in the 
same manner as if there were no such foresight and 
pre-ordination : they shun what is evil ; they desire 
what is good ; they are directed in their determina- 
tions by the light in which objects appear to them, 
without inquiring — without being impressed at the 
time of the direction with any desire to know — whe- 
ther the good and evil came from the appointment 
of a wise being, or whether it arose fortuitously. It 
is present, and it operates because it is present, not 
because it was foreseen. The mind feels its influ- 
ence ; and this feeling is totally distinct from the 
calm judgment which the mind may, upon reflec- 
tion, form with regard to the origin of that influ- 

It seems to result from the simple view we have 
taken of the subject, that the operation of motives 
will be uniform ; that, as the strength of the motive 
may in every case be estimated, the effect will ap- 
pear to correspond to its cause ; and that there will 
be as little variety in the determinations of different 
minds, to whom the same final cause is presented, as 
in the motions of bodies which receive the same fo- 
reign impulse. Yet the fact is, that motives are 
very far from operating according to their apparent 
strength ; that men are daily acting in contradiction 
to those moral inducements which, in all reason, 
ought to determine their conduct ; and that the same 
motives, by which the determinations of one man 
are guided, have not an abiding influence, and often 


hardly any perceptible influence upon another man 
to whom they appear to be equally present. In 
some men, the understanding does not separate 
readily between truth and falsehood, or possesses in 
so slender a degree the faculty of comprehending 
the parts of a complex object, and of tracing conse- 
quences, that, in most cases, neither the end nor the 
means appear to them such as they really are. In 
other men, whose understanding is not defective, 
there are particular affections and inferior appetites, 
which either insensibly bias the will, and even per- 
vert the understanding, or whose violence dictates a 
choice opposite to that which should result from the 
calm judgment of the understanding. And in many 
men there is an indecision — a want of vigour — an 
apprehension of difficulties, by which the final de- 
terminations of their minds, and the conduct which 
they pursue in life, are very different from what 
they themselves approve. 

However plausible, then, the theory may be, which 
represents motives as final causes calling forth the 
exertions of mind, yet, when we come to apply this 
theory to fact, the real influence of these causes be- 
comes a matter of very complicated calculation. We 
have to consider the strength of the motives not ab- 
stractedly, but in conjunction with the particular 
views formed by the mind to which they are pre- 
sented ; and there enters into the formation of these 
views such a variety of circumstances respecting the 
state of the mind, generally unknown to observers, 
or inexplicable by them, and often unperceived by 
the mind itself, that the final determination appears 
in many cases nearly as wayward and capricious as 
if it was not connected with any thing previous, but 


the mind did really exert that uncontrolled sove- 
reignty over its own determinations, to which the 
Arminians give the name of the self-determining 

Notwithstanding this complication of circumstan- 
ces that require to be considered in estimating the 
influence of motives, it is a matter of frequent expe- 
rience, that we may be so well acquainted with the 
character of a person's mind, with all the springs of 
action by which he is moved, and with the situation 
in which he is placed, as to judge, Avith very little 
danger of mistake, what line of conduct he will pur- 
sue. And it is possible, by the information and sug- 
gestions that are conveyed to his understanding, and 
by a skilful and continued application of the objects 
best fitted for rousing his passions, and interesting 
his affections, to obtain an entire ascendency over 
his mind, and to command his sentiments and pur- 
poses. Many persons find it for their interest or 
their pleasure to study the art of leading the minds 
of others, and to devote themselves to the practice of 
this art ; and the history of the world is full of in- 
stances in which the art has been successful. The 
success has som.etimes proved hurtful to the civil 
and political liberties of mankind ; but it has never 
been considered as impairing that liberty of which 
we are now speaking — the liberty which is neces- 
sary to constitute the persons thus led, moral agents. 
Their determinations, although foreseen by their sa- 
gacious neighbours before they were formed, — al- 
though formed upon the view of objects not sought 
after by themselves, but put in their way by those 
neighbours, were still their own determinations ; the 
spontaneous result of their own active powers, in 


which they had all the feeling of choice, and liberty, 
and mental exertion ; of self-approbation if they 
chose right ; of self-reproach if they chose wrong. 

Although the investigation of the character of 
others be to ns laborious, and full of mistake ; al- 
though our efforts to direct the minds of others be 
often rendered abortive by some oversight and ne- 
gligence on our part, by some change upon theirs, 
or by some unlooked-for event, we can easily ac- 
count for this imperfection by the present state of 
human nature ; and we do not find it difficult to rise, 
from what we ourselves experience, to the concep- 
tion of that intuitive knowledge, and that entire di- 
rection of the determinations of mind, which belono* 
to the Supreme Being. He who formed the human 
heart knows what is in man ; he knows our thouo-hts 
afar off, long before they arise in our breasts — lono* 
before the objects by which they are to be excited 
have been presented to us. He, who is intimately 
present through his whole creation, marks, without 
fatigue, or the possibility of misapprehension, every 
the minutest shade that distinguishes the character 
of one man from that of another ; every difference 
in their situation, every variety in the views which 
they form of the same objects. And all these things 
are known to him not merely as they arise. They 
originated in that plan which, from the beginning, 
was formed in the Divine Mind, and which was ex- 
ecuted in time by his pleasure ; so that their being 
future, or present, or past, does not make the small- 
est difference in the clearness, the facility, and the 
certainty, with which he knows them. 

If ail the circumstances presented to the minds of 
his creatures, and constituting moral inducements to 


a certain line of conduct, are a part of the plan of the 
Almighty, it is in his power to accommodate these 
circumstances to the varieties which he perceives in 
the characters of mankind, so as to lead them cer- 
tainly in the path which he chooses for them. We 
observe, in the history of the human race, what we 
call a national character, formed by that concurrence 
of natural and moral causes, which every sound theist 
ascribes to the providence of Him who is the Gover- 
nor among the nations. We observe, in private life, 
how much the characters of those with whom we 
have intercourse depend upon their education, their 
society, their employments, and the events which 
befal them ; and we can conceive these and other 
circumstances combined in the lot of an individual 
by the disposition of Heaven, so as to have a most 
commanding influence in eradicating from his breast 
the vices which were natural to him, and in calling 
forth the continued and vigorous exercise of every 
virtuous principle. This influence is the meaning of 
an expression in theological books, gratia co?igriia, 
that is, grace exercised in congruity to the disposi- 
tion of him who is the subject of it, accommodating 
circumstances to his character in that manner which 
the Almighty foresees will prove effectual for the pur- 
pose of leading him to faith and repentance. This 
is the account which some writers of the Church of 
Rome, of great eminence in their day, chose to give 
of the efficacy of divine grace : it was probably in- 
cluded in the expression used by Arminius, that the 
means of grace are administered juxta sapientiam ; 
and it seems to have been adopted by the earliest 
followers of Arminius. The account of the efficacy 
of divine grace, which may be shortly expressed by 


the phrase gratia congrua^ proceeds upon the view 
that has been given of the influence of motives ; 
and to all who admit that the influence of motives 
upon the mind may certainly direct the conduct, this 
account cannot appear inconsistent with the princi- 
ples of human nature. But it was rejected by the 
successors of Arminius, in their confessions of faith, 
as inconsistent with an intention to save all men, and 
as implying a precise and absolute intention of sav- 
ing some, effectually carried into execution by the 
congruity of the grace which is administered unto 
them. It is rejected by the modern Arminians as 
inconsistent with what they call the self-determining 
power of the mind : and it is considered by the Cal- 
vinists as liable to objections, and as insufficient of 
itself to produce the effects ascribed to it. Gratia 
congrua appears to the Calvinists to imply an exer- 
cise of scieiitia media ; because it implies that the 
minds of those who are to be saved, are considered 
as having an existence, and as possessing a determin- 
ate character, independently of the divine decree, and 
that the administration of the means of grace is di- 
rected by a reference to that character. It appears 
to the Calvinists to be contradicted, as far as we can 
judge, by fact. For as the most favourable circum- 
stances did not conduct the Jews, among whom our 
Saviour lived, to faith in the true Messiah, or pre- 
serve Judas, a member of his family, from the black- 
est guilt, while many among the heathen, without 
any preparation, were turned, at the first sound of 
the Gospel, from idols, to serve the living God ; so, 
in every age, the concurrence of all the advantages, 
which education and opportunities can afford, proves 
ineffectual in regard to some ; while others, with the 
scantiest means of improvement, attain the character 


of those who shall be saved. Gratia congriia ap- 
pears further to the Calvin ists not to come up to the 
import of those expressions, by which the Scripture 
describes the operation of the grace of God upon the 
soul, nor to imply a remedy suited to that degree of 
corruption in human nature, which they think may 
be fairly inferred both from experience and from 

For all these reasons, the Calvinists consider the 
efficacy of divine grace as consisting in an immediate 
action of the Spirit of God upon the soul. This 
part of their doctrine may be easily represented in 
such a light, as if it were subversive of the nature 
of a moral agent ; and much occasion has been given 
for such representations by the unguarded expres- 
sions of those who wish to magnify the divine power 
displayed in this action. But as it is of more im- 
portance to know how the doctrine may be stated in 
consistency with those fundamental principles wliich 
cannot be renounced, than how it has been mis- 
stated, I shall not dilate on the exaggerations either 
of its friends or of its adversaries, but simply pre- 
sent such a view of it as appears to me perfectly 
agreeable both to the words of our Confession of 
Faith, and to the account which has been given of 
the liberty of a moral agent. 

It is manifest that the uncertainty in the opera- 
tion of motives, which w^as formerly mentioned, 
arises from the corruption of human nature ; in 
other words, from the defects of the understanding 
and the disorders of the heart. If the understand- 
ing always perceived things as they are, and if the 
affections were so balanced in the soul, as never to 
dictate any choice in opposition to that which ap- 
pears to be best, there would be an uniformity in the 


purposes and the conduct of all to whom the same 
motives are presented. But if, according to the de- 
scriptions which the Calvinists find in Scripture, 
and which they adopt as the foundation of their sys- 
tem, the corruption of human nature be such as to 
blind the understanding, and to give inferior appe- 
tites that dominion in the soul which was originally 
assigned to reason and conscience, all the multiplici- 
ty of error, and all the caprice of ungoverned desire, 
come in to give variety and uncertainty to the choice 
of the mind. The only method of removing this un- 
certainty of choice is by removing the corruption 
from which it proceeds. And this is allowed, by all 
who hold that there is such a corruption, to be the 
work, not of the creature who is corrupt, but of the 
Creator. This work is expressed in Scripture by 
such phrases as the following : " A new heart will 
I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you."* 
— " Ye must be born again ;" f — " renewed in know- 
ledge after the image of him that created you ;" ^ — 
" renewed in the spirit of your minds — created unto 
good works." ^ While the Calvinists infer from 
these expressions, that there is an immediate action 
of God upon the souls of those who are saved, they 
observe, that all these expressions are so very far 
from implying any action subversive of the nature 
of man, that they distinctly mark the restoration of 
the understanding, the affections, and all the prin- 
ciples of the human mind, to the state in which they 
were, before they were corrupted. Although the 
Calvinists do not attempt to explain the manner of 
this action, they say it cannot appear strange to any 

* Ezek. Mxxvi. 26. f John iii. 7- t Col. iii. 10. 

§ Eph. iv. 23; ii. 10. 


sound theist, — to any one who believes in God as 
the Father of spirits, that he has it in his power to 
restore to their original integrity those faculties 
which he at first bestowed, and which are continu- 
ally preserved in exercise by his visitation : and they 
place that efficacy of divine grace which is charac- 
teristical of their system in this renovation of the 
mind, conjoined with the exhibition of such moral 
inducements, as are fitted to call forth the exertions 
of a mind acting according to reason. It appears 
to them indispensably necessary that these two, the 
renovation of the mind and the exhibition of moral 
inducements, should go together. For although it is 
of the nature of mind to be called forth to action by 
motives, yet the strongest motives may be presented 
in vain to a mind which is vitiated, and moral sua- 
sion may be insufficient to correct its heedlessness 
and to overcome its depravity ; so that if the grace 
of God consisted merely in the exhibition of motives, 
or in a counsel of the same kind with that which a 
friend administers, it might be exerted without ef- 
fect, and those whom God intended to lead to salva- 
tion might remain under the power of sin. But 
when, to the exhibition of the strongest motives, is 
joined that influence which, by renewing the facul- 
ties of the mind, disposes it to attend to them, the 
effigct, according to the laws by which mind operates, 
is infallible : and the Being who is capable of exerting 
that influence, and who, in the decree which embra- 
ces the whole system of the universe, arranged all 
the moral inducements that are to be exhibited in 
succession to his reasonable creatures, has entire do- 
minion over their wills, and conducts them, agreea- 
bly to the laws of their nature, freely, i. e. with their 
consent and choice, and without the feeling of con- 


straint, yet certainly, to the end which he proposes. 
This grace is irresistible, because all the principles 
which oppose its operation are subdued, and the will 
is inclined to follow the judgment of the understand- 
ing. What before was arhitrium servum^ according 
to a language formerly used upon this subject, be- 
comes arhitrium liherum ; for the soul is rescued 
from a condition in which it was hurried on by ap- 
petite to act without due deliberation upon false views 
of objects, and it recovers the faculty of discerning, 
and the faculty of obeying the truth. But in the ex- 
ercise of these faculties consists what the Scriptures 
call " the glorious liberty of the children of God," 
the liberty of a moral agent. He is a slave, the 
servant of sin, led captive by his lusts, when the 
derangement of his nature prevents him from see- 
ing things as they are, from pursuing what deserves 
his choice, from avoiding what he ought to shun. 
He is free, when he deliberates, and judges, and acts 
according to the laws of his nature. By this freedom 
he is assimilated to higher orders of being, who uni- 
formly choose what is good. God acts always ac- 
cording to the highest reason ; he cannot but be just 
and good : yet in this moral necessity, which is in- 
separable from the idea of a perfect being, there is 
freedom of choice. The man Christ Jesus was uni- 
formly and infallibly determined to do those things 
which pleased his Father ; yet he acted with the most 
entire freedom. " The spirits of just men made per- 
fect" are unalterably disposed to fulfil the command- 
ments of the Most High; yet none will suppose 
that, when they are advanced to the perfection of 
their nature, they have lost what is essential to the 


character of a moral agent. So to man in a state of 
trial, according to the degree in which his will is 
determined by the grace of God to the choice of 
what is good, to the same degree is the freedom of 
his nature restored. If the corruption of his nature, 
which indisposes him for that choice, were complete- 
ly removed, he would always will and do what is 
good. If some remainders of that corruption are 
allowed to continue, there will be a proportional 
danger of his deviating from the right path. But 
the degree may be so small, that he shall be effectu- 
ally preserved from being at any time under the 
bondage of sin, and in the general course of his life, 
shall be determined by those motives which the 
Gospel exhibits. 

These are the principles upon which the Cal- 
vinists are best able to defend their system against 
the objection, that it is subversive of the nature of 
man. They hold, that in the exercise of that faith 
and repentance which are indispensably necessary 
to salvation, the determination to act arises from 
the influence of God upon the soul ; but that it is a 
determination to act according to the nature of the 
soul, and therefore, that although the effect of the 
determination is certain, the action continues to be 
free. The Arminians themselves allow that con- 
tingent events, such as the volitions and exertions 
of free agents, are certain beforehand ; for they ad- 
mit that the foreknowledge of God extends to them. 
It is not, therefore, the bare certainty of the event 
which can appear to them inconsistent with liberty ; 
and if the cause to which the Calvinists ascribe this 
certainty gives to the mind the full possession and 


exercise of its faculties, there is implied in the cer- 
tainty of the event, not the destruction, but the im- 
provement of the liberty of man. 


The second head, to which all the difficulties that 
have been supposed to adhere to the Calvinistic 
system may be reduced, is this : It is conceived to 
be dishonourable to God, and inconsistent with 
those attributes of his nature, of which we are able 
to form the clearest notions. The amount of the 
difficulties which belong to this second head, may 
be thus shortly stated. 

Allowing that the determining grace of God may, 
without destroying the nature of man, effisctually 
lead to eternal life those to whom it is given, yet 
the bestowing such a favour upon some and not 
upon others, when all stood equally in need of it, 
constitutes a distinction amongst the creatures of 
God, which it appears impossible to reconcile with 
the impartiality of their common Father. It is 
true that many of his children receive a smaller 
portion in this life than others : but the unequal 
distribution of earthly comforts is subservient to 
the welfare of society, and calls forth the exercise 
of many virtues ; for while those who receive much, 
have opportunities of doing good, those who receive 
little, are placed in a situation which is often very 
favourable to their moral character ; and all are 
encouraged to look forward to a time, when. the 


present inequalities shall be removed. But the 
withholding from some that grace, which is sup- 
posed to be essential to the formation of their moral 
character, can never be compensated. It leaves 
them sinful and wretched here, and consigns them 
to the abodes of misery hereafter ; whilst others, 
not originally superior to them, are conducted, by 
the grace with which they are distinguished, 
through the practice of virtue upon earth, to its 
highest rewards in heaven. The Almighty ap- 
pears, according to this system, not only partial, 
but also chargeable with all the sin that remains in 
the world, by withholding the grace which would 
have removed it ; he appears unjust in punishing 
those transgressions which he does not furnish men 
with effectual means of avoiding ; and there seems 
to be a want of sincerity in the various expressions 
of his earnest desire that men should abstain from 
sin, in the reproaches for their not abstaining from 
it, and in the expostulations upon account of their 
obstinacy, with which the Scriptures abound, when 
he had determined beforehand to withhold from 
many that grace which he might have bestowed 
upon all, and without which he knows that every 
man must continue in sin. 

The picture which I have drawn easily admits 
of very high colouring, such as may be found in 
Whitby's Discourses on the Five Points. Even in 
the simple exhibition of it now given, it appears to 
contain objections and difficulties of a very serious 
nature : and if these objections and difficulties fair- 
ly result from the Calvinistic system, if they are 
peculiar to that system, and if they do not admit of 
an answer, they are a clear proof that it does not 


contain a true representation of the extent and the 
application of the remedy. For it is impossible 
that any doctrine, inconsistent with the attributes 
of God, is contained in a divine revelation. But 
we may find, upon an attentive examination of the 
picture now drawn, that for the solution of some of 
the difficulties nothing more is necessary than a fair 
statement of the case ; that some belong to the Ar- 
minian system no less than to the Calvinistic ; and 
that others are to be placed to the account of the 
narrowness of our understandings, which, in follow- 
ing out principles that appear unquestionably true, 
meet upon all subjects with points which they are 
unable to explain. 

When the Calvinists are accused of charging God 
with partiality, because they say that the effectual 
determining grace, which is imparted to some and 
not to others, proceeds from the mere good pleasure 
of God, they pretend to give no other answer than 
this ; that the Almighty is not accountable to any 
for the manner in which he dispenses his favours ; 
and that, although the favour conferred upon the 
elect is infinitely superior to all the bounties of 
Providence, a favour which fixes their moral cha- 
racter and their everlasting condition, still it is a 
favour which originates entirely in the good plea- 
sure of Him by whom it is bestowed, and in the 
communication of which there is no room for the 
rules of distributive justice, but it is lawful for the 
Creator to do what he will with his own. Justice 
is exercised, after men have acted their parts, in 
giving to every one according to his deserts ; and 
then all respect of persons, any kind of preference, 
which is not founded upon the superior worthiness 



of the objects preferred, is repugiirait to our moral 
feelings, and inconsistent with our conceptions of 
the Supreme Ruler. But the case is widely diffe- 
rent with regard to the communication of that 
effectual grace, which is the fruit of election. For 
according to the view of the divine foreknowledge, 
which is essential to the Calvinistic system, all 
things are brought into being by the execution of 
the divine decree, so that no circumstance in the 
manner of the existence of any individual can de- 
pend upon the conduct of that individual, but all 
that distinguishes him from others must originate 
in the mind which formed the decree : and accord- 
ing to the view of the moral condition of the poste- 
rity of Adam, upon which the Calvinistic system 
proceeds, all deserved to suffer, so that the grace, 
by which any are saved from suffering, is to be 
ascribed to the compassion of the Almighty, /. e. to 
an exercise of goodness, which it is impossible for 
any to claim as a right. 

But the Arminians do not rest in accusing the 
Calvinists of charging God with partiality : they re- 
present absolute reprobation as imposing upon men 
a necessity of sinning, from whence it follows that 
there is not only an unequal distribution of favours 
according to the Calvinistic system, but that there is 
also gross injustice in punishing any sins which are 
committed. All Arminian books are filled with re- 
ferences to human life, with similes, and with repe- 
titions of the same argument in various forms, by 
which it is intended to impress upon the minds of 
their readers this idea, that as we cannot, without 
glaring iniquity, first take away from man the power 
of obeying a command, and then punish his dis- 


-obedience, so if we adhere to those clear notions of 
the moral character of the Deity, which reason and 
Scrii^ture teach, we must renounce a system, which 
implies that men suffer everlasting misery for those 
sins, which God made it impossible for them to 
avoid. To this kind of reasoning the Calvinists an- 
swer, that, under all the amplification which it has 
often received, there is concealed a fallacy in the 
statement which totally enervates the objection ; and 
the alleged fallacy is thus explained by them. If 
the decree of reprobation implied any influence ex- 
•erted by God upon the mind leading men to sin, the 
consequences charged upon it would clearly follow. 
But that decree is nothing more than the withhold- 
ing from some the grace which is imparted to others ; 
^nd God concurs in the sins committed by those 
from whom the grace is withheld, only by that ge- 
neral concurrence which is necessary to the preser- 
vation of his creatures. He, in whom they " live 
and move and have their being," continues with 
them the exercise of their powers : but the particu- 
lar direction of that exercise, which renders their ac- 
tions sinful, arises from the perverseness of their 
own will, and is the frmt of their own deliberation. 
They feel that they might have acted otherwise : 
they blame themselves, because when it was in their 
power to have avoided sin they did not avoid it ; 
and thus they carry about with them, in the senti- 
ments and the reproaches of their own minds, a de- 
cisive proof, which sophistry can never overpower, 
that there was no external cause compelling them to 
sin. It is admitted by the Calvinists that all, from 
whom the special grace of God is withheld, shall in- 
fallibly continue under the dominion of sin, because 

VOL. 111. 1 


their doctrine with regard to the grace of God pro- 
ceeds upon that corruption of human nature, which 
this grace alone is able to remove. But they hold 
that, although of two events one is certainly future, 
both may be equally possible in this sense, that nei- 
ther implies a contradiction : and this is all that ap- 
pears to them necessary to vindicate their doctrine 
from the charge of implying that men are compelled 
to sin. The Arminians are not entitled to require 
more, because by admitting that the sins of men are 
foreknown by God, they admit that they are certain, 
and yet they do not consider this certainty of the 
event as infringing the liberty of those, by whose 
agency the event is accomplished. When it is said, 
then, that man by the decree of reprobation is put 
under a necessity of sinning, there is an equivoca- 
tion in the expression. Those who wish to fix a re- 
proach upon the Calvinistic system, mean by a ne- 
cessity of sinning, that co-action, that foreign im- 
pulse, which destroys liberty : those who defend 
this system admit of a necessity of sinning in no 
other sense, than as that expression may be employ- 
ed to denote merely the certainty of sinning which 
arises from the state of the mind ; and they have 
recourse to a distinction, formerly explained, be- 
tween that physical necessity of sinning, which frees 
from all blame, and that moral necessity of sinning, 
which implies the highest degree of blame. This 
distinction is supported by the sentiments of 
nature ; it is the foundation of judgments, which we 
are accustomed daily to pronounce, with regard to 
the conduct of our neighbours ; and, when rightly 
understood and applied, it removes from the Calvi- 
nistic doctrine the odious imputation of representing 


men as punished by God for what he compels them 
to do. 

Still, however, a cloud hangs over the subject ; 
and there is a difficulty in reconciling the mind to 
a system, which, after laying this foundation, that 
special grace is necessary to the production of hu- 
man virtue, adopts as its distinguishing tenet this 
position, that that grace is denied to many. The 
objection may be inaccurately stated by the adversa- 
ries of the system : there may be exaggeration and 
much false colouring in what they say : it may be 
true that God is not the promoter or instigator of 
sin ; that the evil propensities of our nature, with 
which we ourselves are chargeable, lead us astray, 
and that every person who follows these propensi- 
ties, in opposition to the dictates of reason and con- 
science, deserves to suffer. But, after all, it must 
be admitted, upon the Calvinistic system, that God 
might have prevented this deviation and this suffer- 
ing ; that as no dire necessity restrains the Almighty 
from comm.unicating any measure of grace to any 
number of his creatures, the unmerited favour which 
is shown to some might have been shown to others 
also ; and therefore that all the variety of trans- 
gression, and the consequent misery of his creatures 
may be traced back to his unequal distribution of 
that grace, which he was not bound to impart to 
any, but which, although he might have imparted 
it to all, he chose to give only to some. 

This appears to me the fair amount of the objec- 
tion against the Calvinistic system, drawn from its 
apparent inconsistency with some of the moral at- 
tributes of the Deity. The objection is stated in 
terms more moderate than are cominonlv to be found 


in Arminian books ; but it is in reality the stronger 
for not being exaggerated. 

When this objection is calmly examined, Avithout 
a predilection for any particular system of theology, 
it will be found resolvable into that question, which 
has exercised the mind of man ever since he began 
to speculate, how was moral evil introduced, and 
how is it permitted to exist under the government 
of a Being, whose wisdom, and power, and goodness 
are without bounds ? The existence of moral evil is 
a fact independent of all the systems of philosophy 
or theology which are employed to account for it. 
It has been the complaint of all ages, that many of 
the rational creatures of God abuse the freedom 
which is essential to their character as moral and ac- 
countable agents, debase their nature, and pursue a 
line of conduct which is destructive of their own hap- 
piness and hurtful to their neighbour. And it is 
agreeable to both reason and Scripture to believe, 
that the depravity and misery which are beheld up- 
on earth are the introduction to a state of more com- 
plete degradation and more unabated wretchedness 
hereafter. And thus, as it is no objection to the 
truth of the Gospel, that there is moral evil in the 
world, because it existed before the Gospel was 
given, so the difficulty of accounting for its exist- 
ence is not to be charged to the account of any 
particular system of theology, because its exist- 
ence is the great problem, to the solution of which 
the faculties of man have ever been unequal. Al- 
though, notwithstanding that difficulty, the proofs 
of the being, the perfections, and the govern- 
ment of God appear to those who understand the 


principles of natural religion sufficient to remove 
every reasonable doubt, the difficulty still remains ; 
and a sound theist believes that God is good, with- 
out being able to explain why there is evil in a world 
which he created. 

A short review of the attempts that were made in 
ancient times to solve this problem, may prepare 
you for understanding the force of the answer given 
by the Calvinists to that objection against their sys- 
tem which we are now considering. 

Some philosophers, who held the pre-existence 
of souls, said that man in this state expiates by 
suffering, the sins which he committed in a former 
state, and recovers by a gradual purification the per- 
fection of his nature which he had lost. But, besides 
that this was assuming as true, a position of which 
there is no evidence, that man existed in a previous 
state, the position, supposing it to be true, is of none 
avail, because it merely shifts the difficulty from the 
state which we behold, to a previous state which 
was equally under the government of God. It was 
the fundamental doctrine of the oriental philosophy, 
that there are two opposite principles in nature, the 
one good, the other evil. The good principle is li- 
mited and counteracted in his desire to communicate 
happiness by the evil principle ; and, from the op- 
position between the two, there arises not such a 
world as the good would have produced, but a world 
in which virtue and vice, happiness and misery, are 
blended together. But as the good principle is more 
powerful than the evil, he will at length prevail ; so 
that the final result of the present strife will be the 
defeat of the evil principle, and the undisturbed fe- 
licity of those that have been virtuous. 


All the sects of Gnostics, which distracted the 
early ages of the Christian church, adopted some 
modification of this doctrine, and were distinguished 
from one another only by the rank which they as- 
signed to the evil spirit, by the manner in which 
they traced his generation, or the period which they 
assigned to his fall. * The fame of Manes eclipsed 
all the other founders of the Gnostic sects ; and his 
doctrine, which was once diffused over a great part 
of the Christian world, is still familiar to every scho- 
lar under the name of Manicheism. Manes made 
the evil principle, which he called biri, jjiatter, co- 
eternal with the Supreme Being. To the power of 
this principle, independent of God, and acting in op- 
position to him, Manes ascribed all the evil that now 
is, and that will for ever continue to exist in the 
world. He considered the sins of men as proceed- 
ing from the suggestions and impulse of this spirit ; 
and the corruption of human nature as consisting 
in this, that besides the rational soul, which is an 
emanation from the Supreme Being who is light, the 
body is inhabited and actuated by a depraved mind 
which originates from the evil principle and retains 
the character of its author. This was the system 
by which Manes, treading in the steps of many who 
w^ent before him, and stvidying to improve upon their 

* Mosheim's Church History^ vol. i. The learned author has 
with much erudition^ discriminated the different sects. But he 
has entered more minutely into this discrimination than is consis- 
tent with the patience of his readers^ or than can serve any good 
purpose. For it is a matter of very little importance in what 
manner writers, whose names are deservedly forgotten, arranged 
the rank and the subordination of those beings, to whom their 
imagination gave existence. 


defects, attempted to account for the existence of mo- 
ral evil. But as this system, in order to preserve 
the honour of the moral attributes of the Deity, ad- 
mits such limitations of his power as are inconsis- 
tent with the independence and sovereignty of the 
Lord of nature, it must be renounced by all who en- 
tertain those exalted conceptions of the divine ma- 
jesty which are agreeable to reason, and illustrated 
by Scripture, or who pay due attention to the reve- 
lation given in Scripture, of those evil spirits who 
oppose the purposes of divine grace. We believe 
that the Almighty was before all things ; that every 
thing which is, derived its existence, its form, and 
its powers from his will ; that his counsels are inde- 
pendent of every other being ; that the strength of 
his creatures, all of whom are his servants, cannot 
for a moment counteract the working of his arm, 
and that the world is what he willed it to be. We 
learn from Scripture that there are higher orders of 
being, not the objects of our senses, who are the 
creatures of God, and of whom an innumerable com- 
pany run to fulfil his pleasure. We learn that some 
of these beings, by disobeying their Creator, forfeit- 
ed the state in which he first placed them ; that their 
depravity is accompanied with a desire to corrupt 
others ; that one of them was the tempter of our 
first parents, and that he still continues to exert an 
influence over the minds of their posterity, by enti- 
cing them to sin. But the Scriptures guard us against 
supposing that this evil spirit is rendered by his 
apostacy independent of the Supreme Being. For 
by many striking expressions in the ancient books, 
and by the whole series of facts and declarations in 
the New Testament, we are led to consider him as 


entirely under the command and control of the 
Creator, permitted to exert a certain degree of influ- 
ence for a season, but restrained and counteracted 
during that season, by a power infinitely superior to 
his own, till the time arrive when he is to be bound 
in everlasting chains, and his works destroyed. 

It appears, then, that the account of the origin of 
evil, which is characteristical of the Manichean sys- 
tem, does not receive any degree of countenance from 
that revelation of the invisible world which the Scrip- 
tures give. There is indeed mentioned in various 
parts of Scripture, incidentally and with much ob- 
scurity, a connexion between us and other parts of 
the universe, — an influence exerted over the human 
race by beings far removed from our observation, 
who are the creatures and the subjects of Him who 
made us. The spirits who stand before the Almigh- 
ty are sent forth to minister to the heirs of salva- 
tion ; and the spirits who rebelled against him seek 
to involve us in the guilt and the misery of their re- 
bellion. This incidental opening suggests to our 
minds a conception of the unity of the great moral 
system, of the mutual subserviency of its parts, and 
of the multiplicity of those relations by which the 
parts are bound together; a conception somewhat 
analogous to those ideas of reciprocal a<;tion in the 
immense bodies of the natural system, upon which 
the received principles of astronomy proceed, and 
which the progress of modern discoveries has very 
much confirmed. Our faculties are not adequate to 
the full comprehension of such connexions, either 
in the natural or in the moral world. But the hints 
which are given may teach us humility, by showing- 
how much remains to be known : they may enlarge 


and elevate our ideas of the magnificence and order 
of the work of God ; and they conspire in imprint- 
ing on our minds this first lesson of religion, that 
every part of that work is his, that the superintend- 
ence and control of the Supreme Mind extends 
throughout the whole, and that we give a false ac- 
count of every phenomenon either in the natural 
or in the moral world, when we withdraw it from the 
all-ruling providence of Him, without whose per- 
mission nothing can be, and whose energy pervades 
all the exertions of his creatures. 

If we say that moral evil exists in the world, be- 
cause, by the constitution under which we live, the 
effects of the disobedience of our first parents are 
transmitted to their posterity, we explain, agreeably 
to the information afforded in Scripture, the manner 
in which sin was introduced, but we do not account 
for its introduction ; for that constitution, to which 
we ascribe its continuance in the world, was esta- 
blished by God ; and after we have been made to 
ascend this step, we are left just where we were, to 
inquire why the Almighty not only permitted moral 
evil to enter, but established a constitution by which 
it is propagated. If we attempt, as has often been 
done, to account for moral evil by the necessary li- 
mitation in the capacities of all created beings, we 
are in danger of returning to the principles of the 
Gnostics, who ascribed an essential pravity to mat- 
ter, which not even the power of the Almighty can 
subdue. If we say that moral evil is subservient to 
the good of the universe, we seem to be warranted 
by many analogies in the structure and operations 
of our own frame, where pain is a preparative for 
pleasure, — in the appearances of the earth, and the 



vicissitudes to which it is subject, where irregularity 
and deformity contribute to the beauty and preser- 
vation of the whole, — in society, where permanent 
and universal good often arises out of partial and 
temporary evil. Such analogies have often been ob- 
served, and they constitute both a delightful and an 
useful part of natural history :* but when we attempt 
to apply them to the system of the universe, as an 
account of that evil which has been, and which al- 
ways will be, which affects the character as well as 
the happiness of rational agents, and excludes them 
from the hope of recovering that rank which they 
had lost, we find that we have got beyond our depth. 
The idea may be just, but we are bewildered in the 
inferences which we presume to draw from it : al- 
though we perceive numberless instances in which 
partial good arises out of partial evil, yet we are un- 
able to explain what is the subserviency to good in 
the whole system of that evil which is permanent ; 
and after being pressed with difficulties on every side, 
we are obliged to confess our ignorance of the extent 
and the relations of the great subject, concerning 
which we speculate. 

Having seen the insufficiency of the various at- 
tempts made in ancient and modern times, to solve 
the great problem of natural religion, it only remains 
for us to rest in those fundamental principles of 
which we have sufficient evidence. We know that 
God is wise and good, and that as nothing in the 
universe has power to defeat or counteract his pur- 
poses, all things that are, entered into the great plan 
which he formed from the beginning. Hence we 

* Paley's Natural Theologr. Goodness of the Deity. 


infer that the universe, understanding by that word 
the whole series of causes and effects, and the whole 
succession of created beings, is, such as we behold it, 
the work of God. Why it is not more perfect we 
know not. But from the single fact that it is, we 
infer that it answers the purposes of the Creator. 
He did not choose it on account of its imperfections : 
but these imperfections were not hidden from his 
view, nor are they independent of his will ; and he 
chose it out of all the possible worlds which he might 
have made, because, with all its imperfections, it 
promotes the end for which it was made. That end^ 
being such as God proposed, must be good ; and the 
world, being the fittest to promote that end, must, 
notwithstanding its imperfections, be such as it was 
worthy of God to produce. 

It does not appear to me that human reason can 
go farther upon this subject. I am sensible that this 
is a method of accounting for the existence of eviU 
not very flattering to the pride of our understand- 
ings, and not much fitted to afford a solution of those 
difficulties which exercise our curiosity. It is de- 
ducing a vindication of what is done, not from our 
reasonings and views, but from the fact that it is 
done. But to this kind of vindication we are oblig- 
ed perpetually to have recourse in all parts both of 
natural and of revealed religion ; and to those who 
consider it unsatisfying I can give no better counsel 
than to read and ponder Bishop Butler's Analogy, 
which, of all the books that ever were written by 
men, is the best calculated to check the extravagance 
of our shallow speculations concerning the govern- 
ment of God. 

W^en I state<l the objection to the Calvinistie 


system, that it is inconsistent with the goodness of 
God, the objection appeared to be resolvable into the 
question concerning the origin of evil ; and now that 
we have attained the philosophical answer to that 
question, we find ourselves brought back to the prin- 
ciples of Calvinism. It was objected to the Calvin- 
istic system that if God withholds from some, the 
special grace which would have led them to repent- 
ance, their sin and misery may be traced back to 
him. But we have seen that all the moral evil in 
the world may in like manner be traced back to 
God, because the great plan, of which that moral 
evil is a part, originated from his counsel ; so that 
the answer to this objection against Calvinism is 
precisely the same with the philosophical answer to 
the question concerning moral evil. It is seen that 
some do not repent and believe : but their conduct, 
like every other event in the universe, was compre- 
hended in the divine plan ; in other words, because 
God has not conferred upon them that grace which 
would have led them to pursue a different conduct, 
we infer that it was not his original purpose to con- 
fer that grace, and we believe that the purpose is 
good because it is his. 

The Arminians are compelled to have recourse to 
the very same answer, although they attempt, by 
their system, to shift it for a little. They say that 
men do not repent and believe, because they resist 
that grace which might have led them to repentance 
and faith. But why do they resist this grace? 
The Arminians answer, that the resistance arises 
from the self-determining power of the mind. But 
why does one mind determine itself to submit to 
this grace and another to resist it? If tho Ar- 


miniaiis exclude the infallible operation of e very- 
foreign cause, they must answer this question by 
ascribing the difference to the different character 
of the minds ; and then one question more brings 
them to God, the Father of spirits. For if these 
different characters of mind be supposed to have 
existed independently of the divine will, a suffi- 
cient account is indeed given why some are pre- 
destinated and others are reprobated ; but it is an 
account which withdraws the everlasting condition 
of his reasonable offspring from the disposal of the 
Supreme Being : whereas if it be admitted that he 
who made them gave to their minds the qualities 
by which they are distinguished, and ordained all 
the circumstances of their lot which conspire in 
forming their moral character, the resistance given 
by some is referred to his appointment. It appears 
to be an incontrovertible truth, a truth the evidence 
of which is implied in the terms in which it is 
enunciated, that the gifts of nature and the gifts of 
grace proceed equall}^ from the good jileasure of 
him who bestows them : and if this fundamental 
proposition be granted, then the Calvinistic and 
Arminian systems lead ultimately to the same con- 
clusion. The Arminians ascribe the faith and good 
works of some to a predisposition in their own 
minds for receiving the means which God has pro- 
vided for all, and to the favourable circumstances 
which cherish this disposition ; and the impenitence 
and unbelief of others to the obstinacy of their 
hearts, and to a concurrence of circumstances by 
which that obstinacy is prevented from yielding to 
the means of improvement. The Calvinists ascribe 
the faith and good works of some to an immediate 


and supernatural operation of the Spirit of God 
upon their souls, by which the means of improve- 
ment are rendered effectual ; and the impenitence 
and unbelief of others to that withholding of the 
grace of God, by which the most favourable situa- 
tion becomes ineffectual for leading them to eternal 
life. In either case that God, who forms the heart 
and who orders the lot of all his creatures, executes 
his purpose ; and although the steps be somewhat 
different in the two systems, yet, according to both, 
the ultima ratio, the true reason why some are 
saved and others are not, is the good pleasure of 
Him who, by a different dispensation of the gifts of 
nature and of grace, might have saved all. 

What the ends are which God proposed to him- 
self, by saving some instead of saving all, we are 
totally unqualified to explain. Agreeably to the 
expression used in our Confession of Faith, * the 
Calvinists are accustomed to say that the great end 
of the whole system is the glory of God, or the 
illustration of his attributes ; that as he displayed 
his mercy by saving some from that guilt and mi- 
sery in which all were involved, so he displays his 
justice by punishing others for that sin, in which, 
according to his sovereign pleasure, he chose to 
leave them. Arminian writers are accustomed to 
reprobate, with much indignation, an expression 
which appears to them to represent the glory of 
God as a separate end, pursued by him for his own 
pleasure, without any consideration of the happiness 
of his creatures, or any attention to their ideas of 
justice. But, bearing in mind the whole character 

* Confession of Faith, iii. o. 


of the Deity, considering that He, who may da 
what he will, being infinitely wise and good, can do 
nothing but what is right, it is obvious that his 
glory is inseparably connected with the happiness 
of his creatures. What the weakness of our under- 
standing leads us to call different parts of a cha- 
racter, are united with the most indissoluble har- 
mony in the divine mind ; and his works, which 
illustrate his attributes, do not display any one of 
them in such a manner as to obscure the rest. 
From this perfect harmony between the wisdom 
and goodness of God, his creatures may rest assured 
that every circumstance which concerns their wel- 
fare is effectually provided for in that system which 
he chose to produce ; and the whole universe of 
created intelligence could have chosen nothing for 
themselves so good, as that which is ordained to be, 
because it illustrates the glory of the Creator. At 
the same time, it must be acknowledged, that we do 
not make any advances in our acquaintance with 
the ends of the system by adopting this expression. 
The expression implies that there is a balance or 
proportion among the different attributes, that the 
display of one is bovmded by the display of another, 
and that there are certain limits of every particular 
attribute implied in the perfection of the divine 
mind. But it leaves us completely ignorant of the 
nature of those limits, and it does not presume to- 
explain why the justice of God required the con- 
demnation of that precise nvimber who are left to 
perish, and how his mercy was fully displayed in 
the salvation of that precise number who are called 
the elect. We are still left to resolve the discrimi- 
nation w^hich was made, and the extent of that dis- 


crimination, into the good pleasure of God ; by 
which phrase is meant, not the will of a being act- 
ing capriciously for his own gratification, but a will 
determined by the best reasons, although these rea- 
sons are beyond our comprehension : and all doubts 
and objections, which the narrowness of our views 
might suggest, are lost in that entire confidence, 
with which the magnificence of his works and the 
principles of our nature teach us to look up to a 
Being, of whom, and by whom, and to whom are 
all things. 

It may be thought, upon a superficial view, that 
the account which has been given of the origin of 
evil represents sin as not less agreeable to the Al- 
mighty than virtue, since both enter into the plan 
which he ordained, and both are considered as the 
fulfilment of his purpose. This specious and popu- 
lar objection has often been urged with an air of tri- 
umph against the Calvinistic system. But the prin- 
ciples which have been stated furnish an answer to 
the objection. The evil that is in the universe was 
not chosen by God upon its own account, but was 
permitted upon account of its connexion with that 
good which he chooses. The precise notion of God's 
permitting evil is this, that his power is not exert- 
ed in hindering that from coming into existence, 
which could not have existed independently of his 
will, and which is allowed to exist, because, al- 
though not in itself an object of his approbation, it 
results from something else. According to this no- 
tion of the permission of evil, we say that although 
this world, notwithstanding the evil that is in it, 
promotes the end which the Creator proposed, and 
carries into effect the j)urpose Avhich he had in creat- 


ing it, yet he beholds the good that is in the world 
with approbation, and the evil with abhorrence. We 
gather from all the conceptions which we are led to 
form of the Supreme Being that he cannot love evil : 
we feel that he has so constituted our minds that we 
always behold moral evil with indignation in others, 
with self-reproach in ourselves : we often observe, 
we sometimes experience the fatal effects which it 
produces ; and we find all the parts of that revela- 
tion which the Scriptures contain, conspiring to dis- 
suade us from the practice of it. In this entire co- 
incidence between the deductions of reason, the sen- 
timents of human nature, the influence of conduct 
upon happiness, and the declarations of the divine 
word, there is laid such a foundation of morality as 
no speculations can shake. This coincidence gives 
that direct and authoritative intimation of the will 
of our Creator, which was plainly intended to be the 
rule of our actions : and the assurance of the moral 
character of his government, which we derive from 
these sources, is so forcibly conveyed to our under^ 
standings and our hearts, that if our reasonings up- 
on theological subjects should ever appear to give 
the colour of truth to any views that are opposite to 
this assurance, we may, without hesitation, conclude 
that these views are false. They have derived their 
colour of truth from our presuming to carry our re- 
searches farther than the limited range of our facul- 
ties admits, and from our mistaking those difficul- 
ties which are unaccountable to an intelligence so 
finite as ours, for those contradictions which indicate 
to every intelligent being the falsehood of the pro- 
position to which they adhere. 

A^OI., III. K 


These are the general principles, upon which the 
ablest defenders of the Calvinistic system attempt 
to vindicate that system from the charge of being 
inconsistent with the nature of man and the nature 
of God. As they furnish the answer to philosophi- 
cal objections, I have stated them, as much as possi- 
ble, in a philosophical form, with very little refer- 
ence to the authority of Scripture, and without the 
use of those technical terms which occur in books of 
-Theology. But it is not proper for us to rest in 
this form. To afford a complete view of the evir 
dence and of the application of these principles, I 
mean first to present a comprehensive account of 
that support which the Calvinistic system derives 
from Scripture : — secondly, to give a general history 
of Calvinism, of the reception which at different pe- 
riods it has met with in the Christian church, and of 
what may be called its present state : — and then to 
conclude the subject by applying the principles which 
have been stated as an answer to the two objections, 
in a concise discussion of various questions that have 
agitated the Christian church, and in an explication 
of various phrases that have been currently used in 
treating of these questions. The questions turn 
upon general principles, so that although they have 
been spread out in great detail, and although they 
seem to belong to different subjects, all that is ne- 
cessary in discussing them is to show the manner 
in which the general principles apply to the parti- 
cular questions. The general principles will be elu- 
cidated by this various application ; and we shall be 
able, after having travelled quickly over much de- 
batable matter, to mark the consistency with which 


all the parts of the Calvinistic system arise out of a 
few leading ideas. 

Reid on the Active Powers. 

King on the Origin of Evil. 

Clarke's Demonstration of the Being and Attributcii of God, 

Whitby on the Five Points, 


Edwards on Free Will. 

Butler's Analogy. 




The passages adduced from Scripture by the 
friends and the adversaries of this system are so nu- 
merous, and have received interpretations so widely 
different, that I should engage in an endless field of 
controversy, if I attempted to notice particular texts, 
and to contrast in every instance the Arminian and 
the Calvinistic exposition of them. But a labour so 
tedious and fatiguing is really unnecessary, for the 
same principles, upon which the Calvinistic exposi- 
tion of one passage proceeds, apply to every other. 
Instead, therefore, of repeating the same leading- 
ideas with a small variation of form, I shall simply 
mention that an index of particular texts may be 
found in the proofs annexed to several chapters of 
the Confession of Faith, in the quotations that are 
made in every ordinary system under the several 
heads which belong to the doctrine of predestina- 
tion, and in those books which should be read upon 
the subject. And I shall endeavour to arrange this 


multifarious matter under the three following heads, 
which appear to me to constitute the support which 
Scripture gives to the Calvinistic system. 1. All 
the actions of men, even those which the Scripture 
holds forth to our abhorrence, are represented as 
being comprehended in the great plan of divine pro- 
vidence. 2. The predestination of which the Scrip- 
ture speaks is ascribed to the good pleasure of God. 
3. And the various descriptions of that change of 
character, by which men are prepared for eternal 
life, seem intended to magnify the power, and to de- 
clare the efficacy of that grace by which it is pro- 
duced. I shall then state the answers given by the 
Calvinists to that objection against their system 
which has been drawn fron the commands, the coun- 
sels, and the expostulations of Scripture. 


All the actions of men, even those which the Scrip- 
ture holds forth to our abhorrence, are represented 
as being comprehended in the great plan of divine 
providence. I do not mean merely that all the ac- 
tions of men are foreseen by God. Of this the pre- 
dictions in Scripture afford evidence which even the 
Arminians admit to be incontrovertible. But I mean 
that the actions of men are foreseen by God not as 
events independent of his will, but as originating in 
his determination, and as fulfilling his purpose. 3y 
many sublime expressions the Scriptures impress 


our minds with an idea of the universal sovereignty 
of God, of the extent and efficacy of his counsel, and 
of the uncontrolled operation of his power through- 
out all his dominions. Even those beings and events, 
that appear to counteract his designs, are represent- 
ed as subject to his will, as not only at length to be 
subdued by him, but as promoting, while they ope- 
rate, the end for which he ordained them. — Psal. 
Ixxvi. 10. — Prov. xvi. 4. — Is. xlv. 7. — Lam, iii. 37, 
38. Such expressions receive a striking illustration 
from many of the histories recorded in Scripture. 
The barbarity of the brethren of Joseph, which fill- 
ed their minds with deep remorse, was intended by 
God as an instrument of providing a settlement for 
the posterity of Abraham. " As for you," said Jo- 
seph to his brethren. Gen. 1. 20, " ye thought evil 
against me ; but God meant it unto good, to bring 
to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." 
God did not merely turn it to good after it happen- 
ed, but he " meant it unto good." The obstinacy 
of Pharaoh, in refusing to let the people go out of 
that country to which the wickedness of the sons of 
Jacob had led them, was, in like manner, a part of 
the plan of divine providence ; for, as God said unto 
Moses, Exod. x. 1, 2, " I have hardened his heart, 
and the heart of his servants, that I might show 
these my signs before him ; and that thou may est 
tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what 
things I have wrought in Egypt." " I have hard- 
ened his heart," not by exerting any immediate in- 
fluence leading him to sin, but by disposing matters 
in such a manner that he shall not consent ; he 
shall suffer for his obstinacy ; but that obstinacy is 
appointed by me to give an opportunity of exhibit- 


mg those signs, which shall transmit the Law of 
Moses to future ages with unquestionable proofs of 
its divine original. The folly of the princes, whose 
territories adjoined to the wilderness, in refusing 
the children of Israel a free passage when they went 
out of Egypt, the combination of the kings of Ca- 
naan, which brought destruction upon themselves, 
and the oppression and ravages of those who carri- 
ed Israel into captivity, are all held forth in the his- 
torical and prophetical books of Scripture, as pro- 
ceeding from the ordination of God. Of Cyrus the 
good prince, whose edict recalled the Jews from 
captivity, the Almighty says, Is. xliv. xlv. " He is 
my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, 
even saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be built ; mine 
anointed, whose right hand I have holden ; whom, 
for Jacob my servant's sake, I have called by his 
name." But of Nebuchadnezzar also, the destroyer 
of nations, whose pride is painted in the strongest 
colours, and whose punishment corresponded to the 
enormity of his crimes, thus saith the Almighty, Jer. 
xxvii. 4 — 8, " I have made the earth, and have given 
it unto whom it seemed meet unto me : and now have 
I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchad- 
nezzar the king of Babylon my servant." And again, 
Ezek. XXX. 24, 25, " I will strengthen the arms 
of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his 
hand, — and he shall stretch it out upon the land 
of Egypt." 

The infidelity of the Jews who lived in our Sa- 
viour's time, the envy and malice of their rulers, 
and the injustice and violence with which an inno- 
cent man was condemned to die, were crimes in 
themselves most atrocious, and are declared in Scrip- 


ture to have been the cause of that unexampled mi- 
sery which the Jewish nation suffered. Yet all this 
is also declared. Acts ii. 23, to have happened, " by 
the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." 
And Acts iv. 27, " Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, 
with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were ga- 
thered together to do whatsoever thy hand and thy 
counsel determined before to be done." And Peter, 
after relating the manner in which our Lord was 
put to death, adds the following words. Acts iii. 18 : 
" Those things which God before had showed by the 
mouth of all his prophets that Christ should suffer, 
he hath so fulfilled ;" i. e, the purpose of God in de- 
livering the world embraced all the wicked actions 
of the persecutors of his Son, and could not have 
been accomplished in the manner which he had fore- 
told without these actions. Hence it came to be ne- 
cessary that these actions should be performed : and 
this necessity is intimated as in many other places 
of Scripture, so particularly Matth. xvi. 21. " Jesus 
began to show imto his disciples how that he must 
go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the 
elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and 
be raised again the third day." In the original, the 
same verb hsi governs the infinitives airOMiv^ -Trakiv, a'lrc- 
xra^^nva', syg^^j^va/ ; i. 6. the form of the expression re- 
presents his going to Jerusalem, which was an action 
depending upon his own will, and his suffering many 
things of the chief priests, which depended upon 
their will, as being as unalterably fixed, and as hav- 
ing the same necessity of event as his resurrection 
from the dead, which was accomplished by an ex- 
ertion of divine power without the intervention of 


This last exainj3le is more particular and more 
interesting to us than any of the former : but it is 
exactly of the same order with the rest ; and all of 
them conspire in establishing the following posi- 
tions :-^that actions, contrary to the law of God, 
and to the principles of morality, may form part of 
that plan originally fixed and determined in the 
divine mind ; — that these actions do not lose any of 
their moral turpitude by being so determined, but 
continue to be the actions of the moral agents by 
whom they are performed, for which they deserve 
blame and suffer punishment ; — and that actions 
thus wicked and punishable are made the instru- 
ment of great good. When we find these positions 
true in many particular instances, and also agreeing 
with general expressions in Scripture, we conclude 
by fair induction that they may hold true in the 
great system of the universe ; and we seem to be 
warranted to say, not merely that the providence of 
God brings good out of evil when the evil happens ; 
— that is allowed by the Socinians who deny the 
divine foreknowledge ; — not merely that God, fore- 
seeing wicked actions which were to be performed, 
connected them in the plan of his providence with 
the events which he had determined to produce ; — 
this is what the Arminians say ; — but that the Su- 
preme Being, to whom the series of events, of good 
and of bad actions that constitute the character of 
this world, was from the beginning present, deter- 
mined to produce this world ; that the bad, no less 
than the good actions result from his determination, 
and contribute to the prosperity of the whole ; and 
yet that the liberty of moral agents not being in the 
least affected by this determination, they deserve 


praise or blame in the same manner as if their ac- 
tions had not been predetermined. But these are 
some of the fundamental principles of Calvinism ; 
and if the Scripture, both by general expressions, 
and by instances illustrating and exemplifying such 
expressions, gives its sanction to these principles, 
we have found a considerable support which the 
Calvinistic system derives from Scripture. 


The predestination, of which the Scripture speaks, 
is ascribed to the good pleasure of God. 

There does not occur in the Greek Testament 
any svibstantive word equivalent to predestination. 
But the verb 'rc^oo^fy, 'prcBdestlno, is used in different 
places ; Tr^o^gff/g, mXoyri^ iTikiXToiy also occur ;* and there 
does not appear to be any unwarrantable departure 
from the style of the New Testament in the lan- 
guage commonly used upon this subject. But it is 
not agreed, and it is not incontrovertibly clear, 
whether the sacred writers employed the words 
upon which this language has been framed, in the 
sense affixed to it by the Calvinists. There are 
two systems upon this point ; and as these systems 
extend their influence to the interpretation of a 
great part of Scripture, it is proper to state dis- 
tinctly the grounds upon which they rest. 

The system by which all those, who do not hold 

* Ephes. i. Rom. ix. xi. 1 Pet. i. 1. 


the Calvinistic tenets, expound that predestination 
of which the Scripture speaks, is of the following 
kind. It appears from Scripture that God was 
pleased very early to make a discrimination amongst 
the children of Adam, as to the measure in which 
he imparted to them religious knowledge. The 
family of Abraham were selected amidst abounding 
idolatry to be the depositaries of faith in one God, 
and of the hope of a Messiah : and they are pre- 
sented to us in Scripture under the characters of 
the church, the peculiar people, the children of God. 
But the Old Testament contains many hints, which 
are fully unfolded in the New, of a purpose to ex- 
tend the bounds of the church, and to admit men of 
all nations into that relation with the Supreme 
Being, which for many ages was the portion of the 
posterity of Abraham. This purpose, formed in 
the divine mind from the beginning, began to be 
executed when the apostles of Jesus went forth 
preaching the Gospel to every creature. It was a 
purpose so different from the prejudices in which 
they had been educated, and it appeared to their 
own minds so magnificent, so interesting and de- 
lightful, (after they were enabled to comprehend 
it,) that it occupies a considerable place in all their 
discourses and writings. It made a blessed change 
upon the moral and religious condition of the per- 
sons to whom these discourses and writings w^ere 
generally addressed. For all former commimica- 
ions from heaven had been confined to the land of 
Judea ; and the other nations of the earth, having 
been educated in idolatry, had no hereditary title to 
the privileges of the people of God. But the exe- 
cution of that purpose declared in the Gospel placed 



tliem upon a level with the chosen race. Accord-^ 
ingly Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, in many of 
his epistles, addresses the whole body of professing 
Christians to whom he writes, as elect, saints, pre- 
destinated to the adoption of children ; and magni^ 
fies the purpose, or as he often calls it, the mystery, 
which in other ages was not made known, but had 
been revealed to him, and was published to all, that 
ra zdvn, the Gentiles, who were aliens from the com- 
monwealth of Israel, were called to be fellow-citizens 
with the saints, and of the household of faith. Eph. 
iii. 3 — 7. By contrasting the enormity of the vices 
which had been habitual to them while they lived 
in idolatry, with the spiritual blessings, or the ad^ 
vantages for improving in virtue and attaining 
eternal life, which they enjoyed through the Gospel, 
he cherishes their thankfulness to God for his un- 
merited grace in pardoning their past transgessions, 
and he excites them to the practice of those virtues 
which became their new faith. When we employ 
this leading idea of all the epistles of Paul as a key 
to the meaning of particular passages which are 
much quoted in support of the Calvinistic system, 
the predestination of which he speaks, appears to 
be nothing more, than the purpose of placing the 
inhabitants of all countries where the Gospel is 
preached in the same favourable circumstances with 
respect to religion as the Jews w^ere of old : the 
elect are the persons chosen out of the world, and 
called to the knowledge of the Gospel ; and the spi- 
ritual blessings, which the apostle represents as 
common to all the members of the Christian socie- 
ties whom he addresses, are the advantages flow^ing 
from that knowledge. 


It is allowed that predestination, even in this sense, 
originates in the good pleasure of God. As he chose 
the posterity of Abraham, not because they were 
more mighty or more virtuous than other nations, 
but because he loved their fathers, so he dispenses to 
whomsoever he will, the inestimable blessings con- 
nected with the publication of the Gospel. To na- 
tions who had been the most corrupt this saving 
light was sent ; to individuals whose attainments did 
not seem to prepare them for this heavenly know- 
ledge the Spirit revealed those " things that are 
freely given to us of God ;" and our Lord has taught 
us, that instead of presuming to complain of that 
revelation, which the Almighty was not bound to 
give to any, having been sent to some parts of the 
world and not to others, it is our wisdom and our 
duty to acquiesce in the sovereignty of the divine 
administration, and to say y/ith him, Matth. xi. 25, 
26, '' Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy 

But although those, who admit of predestination 
only in this sense, acknowledge that it originates in 
the good pleasure of God, yet they do not consider 
this acknowledgment as giving any countenance to 
the Calvinistic system. They say that we are not 
warranted to record expressions, which originally 
marked a purpose of sending the blessings of the 
Gospel to all countries, as implying a purpose of con- 
fming eternal life to some individuals in all coun- 
tries ; and that although the Sovereign of the uni- 
verse is accountable to none in dispensing the know- 
ledge of the Gospel, any more than in dispensing the 
measures of skill, sagacity, or bodily strength, by 
which individuals are distinguished, because in the 


end he will render to all men according to their im- 
provement of the advantages which they enjoy, yet 
it does not follow that it is consistent with the im- 
partiality and miiversal beneficence of our Father in 
heaven to make such a distinction in conferring in- 
wavd grace, as shall certainly conduct some of his 
creatures to everlasting happiness, whilst others are 
left without remedy to perish in their sins. 

The system of interpretation which I have now 
explained has been adopted and defended by very 
able men ; by Whitby, the author of the commen- 
tary upon the New Testament ; by Dr. Clarke, whose 
sermons discover more knowledge of Scripture than 
any other sermons that have been printed ; and by 
Taylor of Norwich, author of a Key to the Epistle to 
the Romans, who, in a long introductory essay, has 
unfolded the ideas now stated, and made various use 
of them. The system is extremely plausible. It 
draws an interpretation of epistles, letters to differ- 
ent churches, from the known situation of these 
churches, and from the known ideas of the writer ; 
and by considering particular passages in connex- 
ion with the scope of the epistle, it gives an explica- 
tion of them, which, in general, is most rational and 
satisfying. The light, which every one who has 
lectured upon an epistle can communicate to the 
people by the application of this system, is so pleas- 
ing to himself, and so instructive to them, that he is 
apt to be confirmed in thinking it the full interpre- 
tation of the writer's meaning. And I have no dif- 
ficulty in saying, that if the Calvinistic doctrine de- 
rived no other support from Scripture than that 
which can fairly be drawn from our finding the words 
predestination, elect, and other similar words fre- 


qiieritly recurring in the epistles, it might seem to 
an intelligent inquirer and a sound critic, that that 
doctrine had arisen rather hy detaching particular 
texts from the contexts, and applying them in a 
sense which did not enter into the mind of the sa- 
cred writers, than by forming an enlarged compre- 
hension of their views. 

But after paying this just tribute to the system 
which I have explained, and after admitting that 
more stress is laid upon some particular texts, which 
are commonly quoted as Scripture authority for the 
Calvinistic doctrine, than they can well bear, I pro- 
ceed to state fully the grounds of the other system 
of interpretation, according to which there is men- 
tion made in Scripture of a predestination of indi- 
viduals arising from the mere good pleasure of God : 
and I entertain no doubt that the observations now 
to be made will appear sufficient to warrant the 
Calvinists in saying, that they do not pervert Scrip- 
ture, when they pretend to find a general language 
pervading many parts of it which evidently favours 
their doctrine. 

1. The former interpretation proceeded upon this 
ground, that the epistles are addressed to Christian 
societies, all the members of which enjoyed in com- 
mon the advantages of the preaching of the Gospel, 
but all the members of which cannot be supposed to 
have been in the number of those who shall finally 
be saved ; and hence it is inferred, that such expres- 
sions, as occur in the beginning of the Epistle to the 
Ephesians, mean nothing more than that change 
upon their condition, that external advantage com- 
mon to the whole society, which God, in execution of 
the purpose formed by him from the beginning, had, 


through the publication of the Gospel, conferred upon 
all. Admitting that many of the persons addressed as 
saints and elect shall not finally be saved, still these 
words imply something more than a change upon 
the outward condition ; and there is no necessity for 
our departing so far from their natural and obvious 
meaning, as to bring it down to mere external ad- 
vantage, because the apostle was not warranted to 
make a distinction between those who are predesti- 
nated to life, and those who are left to perish in 
their sins. This distinction is one of those secret 
things which belong to the Lord, and which he has 
not intrusted to his ministers. They are bound in 
charity to believe, that all to whom the external 
blessings are imparted, and who appear to improve 
them with thankfulness, receive also that inward 
grace by which these blessings are made effectual to 
salvation ; and they have no title to separate any 
persons from the society of the faithful, but those 
who have been guilty of open and flagrant trans- 
gressions. Such persons the apostle frequently marks 
out in his epistles ; and he warns the Christians 
against holding intercourse with them ; but to all w^ho 
remained in the society, he sends his benediction, 
and of all of them he hoped things that accompany 

2. Although many passages in the epistles, which 
speak of predestination and of the elect, might seem 
to receive their full interpretation from the purpose 
of God to call other nations besides the Jews to the 
knowledge of the Gospel, jx^t there are places in the 
epistles of Paul, which intimate that he had a fur- 
ther mtaiiiiig. Of this kind is the ninth chapter 
to the Komans, and a part of the eleventh ; tv.o 


passages of Scripture which give the greatest 
trouble to those who deny the truth of the Calviii- 
istic doctrine, which have received a long commen- 
tary from Arminius himself, and from many Armi- 
nian writers, but which, after all the attempts that 
have been made to accommodate them to their 
system, are fitted, in my opinion, to leave upon the 
mind of every candid reader, an indelible impres- 
sion that this system does not come up to the mind 
of the apostle. The ninth chapter to the Romans 
is one of the most difficult passages in Scripture ; 
and I am far from saying that the Calvinistic 
system makes it plain. There is an obscurity and 
extent in the subject which is beyond the reach of 
our faculties, and which represses our presumptuous 
attempts to penetrate the counsels of the Almighty. 
But after reading that chapter, and the eleventh, 
with due care in the original, the amount of them, 
it will probably be thought, may be thus stated. 
God chose the posterity of Abraham out of all the 
families of the earth. He made a distinction in the 
posterity of the patriarch, by confining to the seed 
of Isaac the blessings which he had promised ; of 
the twin sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob, he declared 
before they were born, that he preferred the younger 
to the elder, and rejecting Esau he transmitted the 
blessing through the children of Jacob. In all 
these limitations God exercised his sovereignty, and 
executed his own purpose according to the election 
of grace ; and he made still a further limitation 
with regard to the children of Jacob. For all they 
who are descended from the patriarch, according to 
the flesh, are not the children of promise ; all who 
are of Israel are not truly Israel, or the people of 


God. The calling of the nation of Israel is, indeed, 
without repentance ; and, therefore, Israel as a 
nation, shall yet be gathered ; but many individuals 
who belong to that nation shall perish. " Israel," 
as the apostle speaks, understanding by that v/ord 
all the descendants of Jacob, " hath not obtained 
that which he seeketh for ; but the election hath 
obtained it," i. e. those who are elected have ob- 
tained it ; a remnant is saved, while the rest were 
blinded ; and in place of that great body of Israelites, 
who thus appear by the event not to have been 
elected, God hath called a people which before were 
not his people ; he is made manifest by the Gospel 
to them that asked not after him, and through the 
fall of a great part of Israel, salvation is come to 
the Gentiles. 

To all the objections which human reason can 
suggest against this dispensation, the answer made 
by the apostle is conveyed in this question, " who 
art thou that repliest against God ?" He repre- 
sents, by a striking similitude, the condition of the 
creatures as entirely at the disposal of him who 
made them ; and he concludes all his reasoning in 
these words, Rom. xi. 33 — 36, " O the depth of 
the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of 
God ! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his 
ways past finding out ! For who hath known the 
mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor ? 
Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be 
recompensed unto him again ? For of him, and 
through him, and to him, are all things ; to whom 
be glory for ever, Amen." In these verses, the 
very principles which are the foundation of Cal- 
vinism are laid down by an inspired apostle, and 


applied by him to account for this fact, that of a 
nation, who are chosen by God, many individuals 
perish ; and the account which they furnish is this, 
that under the declared purpose of calling the whole 
nation to the knowledge of the truth, there was a 
secret purpose respecting individuals, which secret 
pvirpose stands in the salvation of some and the 
destruction of others ; while the declared purpose 
stands also respecting the whole nation. If these 
principles apply to the peculiar people of God under 
the Mosaic dispensation, they may be applied also 
to Christians, who, by enjoying the Gospel, come in 
place of that peculiar people, and are so designed in 
Scripture : and the apostle seems to teach us by his 
reasoning with regard to Israel, that we have not 
attained his full meaning, when we interpret what 
he says concerning the predestination of Christians 
merely of those outward privileges, which being 
common to all are abused by many ; but that with 
regard to them, as with regard to Israel, there is a 
purpose of election according to grace which shall 
stand, because they who are elected shall obtain the 
end which all profess to seek, while the rest are 
blinded. According to this method of interpreting 
these two chapters, we learn from the apostle that 
there is the same sovereignty, — the same exercise 
of the good pleasure of God in the election of indi- 
viduals as in the illumination of nations, that both 
are accounted for upon the same principles, and 
that with respect to both, God silences all who say 
that there is unrighteousness in him by that decla- 
ration, which he employed when he conferred a 
signal mark of his favour upon Moses, " I will have 
mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will 


have compassion upon whom I will have compas- 

3. There are passages both in the Epistles and in 
other parts of Scripture, which appear to declare 
the election of some individuals and the reprobation 
of others, without any regard to the nations to 
which they belong. I do not mean that there are 
passages of this kind, the application of which in 
support of the Calvinistic system has not been con- 
troverted ; for upon a subject which the Scriptures 
have left involved in much obscurity, and upon 
which they have chosen rather to furnish incidental 
hints than a complete delineation, it is easy for in- 
genious men to give a plausible exposition of parti- 
cular texts, so as to accommodate them to their 
own system. I do not consider that all the texts 
w^hich are quoted in support of the Calvinistic 
system admit, according to the rules of sound and 
fair criticism, of that interpretation which is adopted 
by those who quote them : nor do I mean to hold 
forth as insignificant the objections made to the 
Calvinistic interpretation of the texts which I am 
now to mention. But I arrange them under this 
third head, because it appears to me that the inter- 
pretation connected with that arrangement is the 
most natural, and that when taken in conjunction 
with the other support which the Calvinistic system 
derives from Scripture, they contain an argument 
of real w^eight. 

1. Our Lord calls the Christians sxXsxro/, Matth, 
xxiv. 22, 24, and Luke xviii. 7, when this name 
does not seem to have any reference to the purpose 
of calling the Gentiles, or to the election of his 
apostles to their office. The name is given to those 


Jews who had embraced the Gospel before the de- 
struction of Jerusalem. They were distmguished 
from their countrymen by their faith in Christ ; and 
on account of this distinction were permitted to es- 
cape that destruction which overtook all the rest of 
their nation. Now the faith of these Christian Jews 
is represented by the name i%ki%roi, a word which here 
can have no reference to the distinction between 
Jews and Gentiles, but seems employed on purpose 
to remind them that their faith flowed, not from any 
exertion of their own, but from the good pleasure 
and appointment of God, who chose them out from 
amongst their countrymen. 

2. Our Lord comprehends his true disciples, all 
who are to be saved by him, under this general ex- 
pression, John vi. 37, 39, tr%^ 6 M'^^^i or hl'ji^^i [jm 6 
'TTuryi^. He applies, indeed, in John xvii. the phrase 
o'jg diduzag fxo/ to all the twelve apostles, not exclud- 
ing Judas ; so that their being given him by God 
means nothing more in that place than the phrase 

used John XV. 16, ov^, vfi^/g ^s sJsXsgacr^s, a?.X' gyw v'Mug i^s- 

Xs^ufinv; — their designation and election to the office 
of Apostles, without any respect to their personal 
character or to their own salvation. But when the 
tw^o chapters are compared, it is instantly perceived 
that the same phrase is used in different senses ; be- 
cause it is said, John vi. 39, " this is the Father's 
will, that of all which he hath given me I should 
lose nothing ;" whereas it is said, John xvii. 12, 
" those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none 
of them is lost, but the son of perdition." Our 
Lord's expression in chap. vi. being thus clearly dis- 
criminated from the similar expression in chap. xvii. 


seems to imply that the infallible salvation of all true 
Christians arises from the destination of God. 

3. Acts xiii. 48. Ka/ i-TriSTzvaav b(ioi Yi(iccv riTwyixivoi s/g ^wtji' 

at^vim. All who oppose the Calvinistic system un- 
derstand rzrayiJAm to mean nothing more than the 
English word disposed, L e. persons who had pre- 
pared themselves, w^ho were qualified by the dispo- 
sition of their minds for eternal life. But this use 
of the word is neither agreeable to its primary mean- 
ing, nor siipported by any authority. The word 
properly means set in order for eternal life ; and the 
ordering is marked, by the passive voice, as proceed- 
ing from some other being. So the powders that are, 
Rom. xiii. 1, by which the apostle means civil au- 
thority, biro Tou Qioj nray/xsvai uct. 'Offor is manifestly a parti- 
tive of the Gentiles, all of whom had heard the 
same discourse preached by Paul and Barnabas in 
the synagogue of Antioch, and all of whom had re- 
joiced in hearing it ; and the clause appears intend- 
ed to account for its producing an effect upon some, 
of more permanent and substantial value than the 
gladness which it had produced in all. The account 
given is the destination of God, who, having meant 
to bring some of them to eternal life, set them in or- 
der for that end, by giving them faith. 

4. There is one passage in the epistle to the Ro- 
mans, Vv^here the apostle uses the w^ords cr^oo^/^w, 
sr.Xsxro/, T^okdig^ without seeming to have in his eye the 
difference between Jews and Gentiles. Rom. viii. 
28 — 33. Although the twenty-ninth verse be un- 
derstood to mean nothing more than this, that God 
ordained that those who are the called according to 
his purpose should endure suffering like Jesus Christ, 
it requires a manifest perversion of the following 



verses to deprive the Calvinistic system of the sup- 
port, which it obviously derives both from the par- 
ticular phrases and from the train of the apostle's 
reasoning. It would seem, indeed, that the first 
part of the twenty-ninth verse favours the Arminian 
system, by making foreknowledge previous to pre- 
destination. To this the Calvinists are accustomed 
to give one or other of the following answers. They 
either understand t^os/i^&j to mean not foreknowledge, 
but that peculiar discriminating affection of which 
the elect are the objects ; or, answering in a manner 
which has a less captious and evasive appearance, 
they admit that a perfect foreknowledge of all that 
the elect are to do enters into the decree of predes- 
tination, but they deny that it is the cause of their 
election, because all that is done by the elect is in 
consequence of the strength communicated to them 
by the grace of God. This answer to the Arminian 
interpretation of Rom. viii. 29. leads m.e to the third 
head, under which I arranged that support which 
the Calvinistic system derives from Scripture. 


The various descriptions of that change of charac- 
ter, by which men are prepared for eternal life, seem 
intended to magnify the power and to declare the 
efficacy of that grace by which it is produced. 

All the passages usually quoted under this head 
furnish clear evidence of what is called in theologi- 


cal language grace, an influence of God upon the 
mind of man, and in their proper and literal mean- 
ing seem to denote that kind of influence which en- 
ters into the Calvinistic system. Yet many of them 
are not decisive of the controversy between the Cal- 
vinists and the Arminians, because the Arminians 
find it possible to give them an interpretation not 
inconsistent with their account of the nature of that 
influence. Thus they are accustomed to quote that 
saying of our Lord, " without me ye can do no- 
thing," as a proof that preventing grace is necessary 
to all men. They interpret that saying of the apos- 
tle, " faith is the gift of God," as only a proof that 
without an administration of the means of grace, 
and a moral suasion accompanying them, none can 
attain faith ; and they consider this expression of 
our Lord, " No man can come to me except the Fa- 
ther draw him," as marking in the most significant 
manner that kind of moral suasion, of which the 
Almighty speaks by the prophet Hosea, " I drew 
them with cords of a man, with bands of love." 
This specimen shows that upon a subject so far re- 
moved from observation and experience, it is not 
difficult for ingenious men to elude, in a very plausi- 
ble manner, the argument drawn from those texts, 
which a person educated with Calvinistic ideas con- 
siders as unequivocal proofs of his system. Yet 
there are three kinds of passages in Scripture, which, 
when taken together, it appears to me almost impos- 
sible to reconcile with the Arminian account of 

The first are those which represent the natural 
powers of the human mind, attainments in know- 
ledge, and the most distinguished advantages in re- 


vspect of religion, as of none avail in producing faith 
without the action of the Spirit of God ; while his 
teaching is represented as infallibly producing that 
effect. Of this kind are the following : 1 Cor. ii. 
14 ; i. 22, 23, 24 ; iii. 5, 6, 7. John vi. 45. 

The second are those which derive the account of 
this inefficacy of all the other means that seem fitted 
to produce faith, from the corruption of human na- 
ture. This corruption is chiefly described in epis^ 
ties addressed to Christian churches, composed of 
those who had formerly been heathens ; and the de- 
scriptions have a particular reference to the vices 
which abounded amongst them before they were con- 
verted to the Christian faith. But the history of 
the Avorld and the experience of all ages may satisfy 
us that these descriptions, with some allowance for 
local manners, for the progress of civilization, and 
for the influence of Christianity, are applicable to 
the general state of mankind. The apostle begins 
his epistle to the Romans with a formal proof that 
all men, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin ; and 
this universal corruption of the posterity of Adam, 
although the foundation of the Gospel, is by no 
means a peculiar doctrine of revelation, but, inde- 
pendently of that authority, is established by various 
incontrovertible evidence. Now all the Scripture 
statements of this corruption imply a moral inability 
to attain that character which is necessary to salva- 
tion. Of this kind are the following : Eph. ii. 1. 
Eph. iv. 18, 19. Rom. viii. 7, 8. 

The third are those which represent the action of 
the Spirit of God in removing this inability, by 
phrases exactly corresponding to these descriptions 
of the corruption. Of this kind are the following : 


Ezek. xxxvi. 26. John iii. 5. 2 Cor. v. 17. Eph. 
ii. 10. Eph. i. 19 ; where the power exerted in 
quickening those who are dead in sins is compared 
to the power which was exerted in raising Christ 
from the dead. Phil. ii. 13. 

The Arminians, considering the literal sense of 
these passages as subversive of moral agency, at- 
tempt to give such an explication of them as is con- 
sistent with the Arminian account of grace. But if 
the Calvinists are able to show that a renovation of 
the powers of human nature leaves a man as much 
a moral agent as he was at the beginning — that his 
liberty is not destroyed by the action of God upon 
his mind, then there is no occasion for having re- 
course to that Arminian commentary, which takes 
away the propriety and significancy of the 'figures 
used in these phrases ; but we may preserve the con- 
sistency of Scripture and the analogy of faith, by ad- 
mitting that kind of influence which corresponds to 
the corruption of human nature, which, although 
resisted at first in consequence of that corruption, is 
in the end efficacious, and which owes its efficacy not 
to any quality that the recipient possesses independ- 
ently of divine grace, but to the good pleasure and 
the pov/er of that Being, who is as able to quicken 
a soul dead in sin, as to raise a body from the dust, 
and who declares in Scripture the sovereignty of his 
grace, by teaching us that all other means are insig- 
nificant, till he is pleased to renew the soul which 
he made. 



In order to complete the view of that support which 
the Calvinistic system derives from Scripture, it only- 
remains to state the answer which the Calvinists 
give to that objection against their system, which 
has been drawn from the commands, the counsels, 
and the expostulations of Scripture. This objection, 
with which all Arminian books are filled, I shall 
present in the words of Dr. Whitby, taken from dif- 
ferent parts of his discourses on the Five Points. 

" If conversion be wrought only by the unfrus- 
trable operation of God, then vain are all the com- 
mands and exhortations addressed to wicked men to 
turn from their evil ways ; for it is no more in their 
power to do this than to create a world. Vain are 
all the threatenings denounced in Scripture against 
those who go on without amendment, because such 
threatenings can only move the elect by the fear of 
their perishing, which is a false and an impossible 
supposition ; and can only move those who are not 
elected by suggesting the possibility of their avoid- 
ing the death and ruin threatened, although it is to 
them inevitable. Vain are all the promises of par- 
don to those who repent, because these are promises 
made upon a condition which to the non-elect is im- 
possible." — " All the commands and exhortations di- 
rected by God to the faithful to persevere in well- 
doing, all cautions to take heed lest they fall away, 
all expressions which suspend our future happiness 
on this condition, that we continue steadfast to the 
end, are plain indications that God hath made no 


absolute decree that good men shall not fall away. 
For as when motives are used to induce men to em- 
brace Christianity, or to perform any Christian du- 
ty, these motives contain an evidence that it is pos- 
sible for men to do otherwise, so also when motives 
are used to induce men to persevere in the profession 
which they have undertaken, they necessarily con- 
tain an evidence, that any man who is induced by 
them to persevere in the course of a Christian, had 
it in his power not to persevere." — " Can God be 
serious and in good earnest in calling men to faith 
and repentance, and yet serious and in good earnest 
in his decree to deny them that grace without which 
they neither can believe nor repent ? If we consider 
with what vehemence and what pathetic expressions 
God desires the obedience and reformation of his 
people, can it be rationally imagined that there was 
any thing wanting on his part, and that he should 
himself withhold the means sufficient to enable them 
to do what he thus earnestly wishes they had done ?" 

The answer made by the Calvinists to all reason- 
ings and interrogations of this kind, appears to me 
to consist of the five following branches, which I 
have arranged in the order that is most natural, and 
Avhich I shall not spread out at length, but leave to 
be filled up by private reading and reflection. 

1. The Calvinists say that it is a misrepresenta- 
tion of their doctrine to state the efficacy of the grace 
of God as superseding commands, counsels, and ex- 
hortations, or rendering them unnecessary with re- 
gard to the elect. The purpose of that grace is to 
produce in the elect the character which is insepar- 
ably connected with salvation. For the Calvinists, 
no less than the Arminians, hold that the promise 


of eternal life is conditional, suspended upon perse- 
verance in well-doing. What is peculiar to them is, 
that they consider the fulfilment of the condition in 
those who are elected to eternal life as depending 
upon the action of the Spirit of God : but the method 
in which they reconcile this action with the liberty 
of a moral agent implies the exhibition of all the 
moral inducements fitted to act upon reasonable be- 
ings ; and although they hold that all means are 
inefifectual without the grace of God, yet it appears 
to them that when the means of improving the hu- 
man character, which the Scripture employs, are 
considered as parts of that series of causes and effects 
by which the Almighty executes his decree, the ne- 
cessity and the efificacy of them is established upon 
the surest ground. Hence the Calvinists do not per- 
ceive any inconsistency between the promise, " I will 
give you a new heart," and the precept, " make you 
a new heart and a new spirit ;" between the declara- 
tion, " we are God's workmanship, created in Christ 
Jesus unto good works," and the precept, which 
seems to imply that we are our own workmanship, 
** that ye put off concerning the former conversation 
the old man, which is corrupt according to the de- 
ceitful lusts, and that ye put on the new man, which 
after God is created in righteousness and true holi- 
ness." Far from perceiving any inconsistency be- 
tween the promise and the precept, they admire the 
harmony with which the two conspire in the infalli- 
ble production of the same end. For the divine 
counsels, commands, and invitations to obedience, 
by making that impression upon the minds of the 
elect which the authority and kindness therein ex^ 
hibited have a tendency to produce upon reasonable 


beings, are the instruments of fulfilling the divine 
intention, by conducting the elect in a manner con- 
formable to their nature, and through the free exer- 
cise of every Christian grace, to that happiness which 
had been from eternity destined for them. 

2. The Calvinists say that these counsels and com- 
mands, which are intended by God to produce their 
full effect only with regard to the elect, are address- 
ed indifferently to all, for this reason, because it was 
not revealed to the writers of the New Testament, 
nor is it now revealed to the ministers of the Gospel, 
who the elect are. The Lord knoweth them that 
are his : but he hath not given this knowledge to 
any of the children of men. We are not warranted 
to infer from the former sins of any person that lie 
shall not at some future period be conducted by the 
grace of God to repentance ; and therefore we are 
not warranted to infer that the counsels and exhor- 
tations of the divine word, which are some of the 
instruments of the grace of God, shall finally prove 
vain with regard to any individual. But although 
it is in this way impossible for a discrimination to 
be made in the manner of publishing the Gospel, 
and although many may receive the calls and com- 
mands of the Gospel who are not in the end to be 
saved, the Calvinists do not admit that even with 
regard to them, these calls and commands are whol- 
ly without effect. For, 

3. They say that the publication of the Gospel is 
attended with real benefit even to those wiio are not 
elected. It points out to them their duty ; it re- 
strains them from flagrant transgressions which 
would be productive of much present inconvenience, 
and would aggravate their future condemnation : it 



has contributed to the diffusion and the enlargement 
of moral and religious knowledge, to the refinement 
of manners, and to the general welfare of society ; 
and it exhibits such a view of the condition of man 
and of the grace from which the remedy proceeds, 
as magnifies both the righteousness and the compas- 
sion of the Supreme Ruler, and leaves without ex- 
cuse those who continue in sin. 

4. The Calvinists say further, that although these 
general uses of the publication of the Gospel come 
very far short of that saving benefit which is con- 
fined to the elect, there is no want of meaning or of 
sincerity in the expostulations of Scripture, or in its 
reproaches and pathetic expressions of regret with 
regard to those, who do not obey the counsels and 
commands that are addressed to all. For these coun- 
sels and commands declare what is the duty of all, 
what they feel they ought to perform, what is es- 
sential to their present and their future happiness, 
and what no physical necessity prevents them from 
doing. There is indeed a moral inability, a defect 
in their will. But the very object of counsels and 
commands is to remove this defect ; and if such a 
defect rendered it improper for the Supreme Ruler 
to issue commands, every sin would carry with it 
its own excuse; and the creatures of God might al- 
ways plead that they were absolved from the obliga- 
tion of his law, because they were indisposed to obey 
it. It is admitted by the Calvinists, that the moral 
inability in those who are not elected is of such a 
kind, as will infallibly prevent their obeying the com- 
mands of God ; and it is a part of their system, that 
the Beiijg who issues these commands has resolved 
to withhold from such persons the grace which alone 


is sufficient to remove that inability. In accounting 
for these commands, therefore, they are obliged to 
have recourse to a distinction between the secret and 
the revealed will of God. They understand, by his 
revealed will, that which is preceptive, which de- 
clares the duty of his creatures, containing commands 
agreeable to the sentiments of their minds and the 
constitution of their nature, and delivering promises 
which shall certainly be fulfilled to all who obey the 
commands. They understand, by his secret will, his 
own purpose in distributing his favours and arrang- 
ing the condition of his creatures ; a purpose which 
is founded upon the wisest reasons, and is infallibly 
carried into execution by his sovereign power, but 
which not being made known to his creatures cannot 
possibly be the rule of their conduct. This distinc- 
tion, although the subject of much obloquy in all 
Arminian books, appears, upon a fair examination, 
only a more guarded method of stating what we 
found to be said by the advocates for universal re- 
demption. Their language is, that God intends to 
save all men by the death of Christ, but that this in- 
tention becomes effectual only with regard to those 
who repent and believe. The Calvinists, not choos- 
ing to hold a language which implies that an inten- 
tion of God can prove fruitless, interpret all the 
counsels, and commands, and expostulations, which 
are urged in proof of an intention to save all men, 
as expressions only of a revealed will, but not as im- 
plying any purpose which is to be carried into effect. 
When they find in Scripture such general proposi- 
tions as the following, " he that believeth on me hath 
everlasting life," — ** whoso confesseth and forsaketh 
his sins shall have mercy ;" they consider them both 


as declaring a rule of conduct, and as delivering a 
promise which is fulfilled with regard to every indi- 
vidual who believes and repents ; and as they know 
that these propositions never can prove false, so it 
does not appear to them that there is any inconsist- 
ency between the general terms in which the propo- 
sitions are enunciated, and the special grace by which 
God produces faith and repentance in those whom 
he has predestinated to everlasting life. 

5. The Calvinists say, in the last place, that if 
there is a difficulty in reconciling the earnestness 
with which God appears in Scripture to seek the sal- 
vation of all men, with the infallible execution of his 
decree that only some shall be saved, this difficulty 
is not peculiar to their system, but belongs to the 
Arminian also. If with the Socinians w^e abridge 
the foreknowledge of God, then his counsels and ex- 
hortations to ail men wall appear to us the natural 
expressions of an anxiety, such as we often feel, about 
an effect, of the production of which we are uncer- 
tain. But if with the Arminians we admit that the de- 
terminations of free agents were from eternity known 
to God, then w^e must admit also that he addresses 
counsels and exhortations to those upon whom he 
knows they will not produce their full effect. As he 
sent of old by Moses a command to Pharaoh to let the 
children of Israel go, although at the very time of 
giving the command he says, " and I am sure that 
he will not let you go ;"* as our Lord said to his 
disciples, "watch and pray that ye enter not into temp- 
tation,"! although the whole tenor of the discourse, 

* Exod. iii. 18, I9. t Matth. xxvi. 41. 



of which these words are a part, discovers his certain 
knowledge that all the disciples were to yield to 
temptation, Peter by denying, and the rest by for- 
saking him : so the word of God continues to warn 
men against sins which they will commit, to pre- 
scribe duties which they will not perform, and to 
give them, in the language of the warmest affection, 
counsels upon which the obstinacy of their hearts 
is to pour contempt. The answer made by the Ar- 
minians to the Socinian charge of a want of serious- 
ness and sincerity in warnings, precepts, and coun- 
sels, uttered by a Being who foresees their final in- 
efficacy, is this, that it is fit and proper for God to 
declare to men their duty ; that the perverseness of 
their wills does not diminish their obligations, and 
that his foreknowledge of that perverseness has no 
influence in giving his counsels less effect upon their 
minds. The very same answer may be adopted by 
the Calvinists. For although they infer, from the 
perfection of the Supreme Mind, and from various 
expressions in Scripture, that there is a decree by 
which cer.tain persons are elected, while others are 
left to perish ; yet, as the particulars of this decree 
are nowhere made known to us, they cannot regard 
it as in any respect the rule of our conduct ; and al- 
though they do not think themselves at liberty to fol- 
low the Socinians in denying the extent of the divine 
understanding, yet, like the Socinians, they receive 
the authoritative injunctions of the divine word as 
the will of our Creator ; they study to learn from 
thence, not the unknown purposes of divine wisdom, 
but the measure of our obedience ; and they say with 
Moses, who, in his last address to the children of 


Israel, Deut. xxix. 29, appears to give his sanction 
to the distinction made by them, " the secret things 
belong unto the Lord our God ; but those things 
which are revealed belong unto us, and to our child- 
ren for ever, that we may do all the words of this 


CHAP. Xf, 


The history of tliat system of opinions, now called 
Calvinistic, extends almost from the beginning of 
the Christian era to the present period. It is not 
my province to detail the names of all those by whom 
these opinions have been held, the ages in which they 
lived, the books which they wrote, the opposition or 
the encouragement which they received. But I 
think it may be interesting and useful to subjoin to 
the discussions in which we have lately been engag- 
ed, a short comprehensive view of the state of the 
opinions which were the subjects of the discussions, 
during the different stages of their progress. 

Those who hold the Calvinistic system find its 
origin in several expressions of our Lord, and in 
many parts of the writings of Paul. Those who 
hold the opposite system give a different interpreta- 
tion of all the passages in which this origin is sought 
for. The dispute is not decided by referring to the 
most ancient Christian writers, for they express 
themselves generally in the language of Scripture 
with much simplicity ; they do not appear to have 
possessed great critical talents ; and they avoid en- 


teriiig into any profoimd speculations. It is not as- 
certained what was the system of Christians in the 
first four centuries, or whether they had formed any 
system upon this intricate subject. But in the fifth 
century systems very similar to those which are now 
held were opposed to one another. The voluminous 
writings of Augustine, by whom one of the systems 
was established, are extant ; and we learn the out- 
lines of the opposite system, both from the large ex- 
tracts out of the works of its supporters, which are 
found in his writings, and from other collateral tes- 
timony. Although the system combated by Augus- 
tine was not completely evolved till his day, yet the 
principles from which it took its rise may be traced 
back to those philosophical speculations which, in 
the former centuries, had occupied a great part of 
the attention of Christian v/riters. Even in the 
days of the apostles, some who had been educated in 
the schools of the philosophers, professed to embrace 
Christianity ; and the number of learned Christians 
continued to increase in every century. Not con- 
tent v/ith the simple form in which the doctrines of 
revelation had been held by their more illiterate pre- 
decessors, these learned converts introduced a spirit 
of research, a refinement of speculation, and a syste- 
matical arrangement, of which the sacred -writers 
liave not set an example. The tenets, which many 
of these converts had imbibed in their youth, and 
which they v/ere far from relinquishing v/lien they 
assumed the name of Christians, v/ere so opposite 
to the truth, — and the pride of human science, in 
v/hich they had been educated, was so inconsistent 
with that temper which Jesus requires in all who 
nre taui>'ht bv him, that the Gospel, instead of l)eing 


improved, was in various respects corrupted by this 
early mixture of philosophy. It is probable that 
when the apostle Paul speaks in his epistles of a dan- 
ger that Christians might be " spoiled through phi- 
losophy and vain deceit," * and of " oppositions of 
science falsely so called," f he means that kind of 
philosophy which was characteristical of the Gnostic 
sects ; and it is known, that in the first three cen- 
turies, the grossest adulterations of Christianity 
arose from the principles of that philosophy. 

Many sects of Christians were in this manner 
led to account for those differences of human char- 
acter which have always been observed, by holding 
that some souls are naturally and essentially evil, 
being either entirely formed by the evil spirit, or so 
completely under his influence as to be unable to 
emancipate themselves ; and that others derive so 
large a proportion of their nature from the good 
Spirit, as to find no difficulty in preserving their in- 
tegrity. The errors connected with this physical 
discrimination of souls were combated with much 
learning about the end of the third century by Ori- 
gen, who had been bred in the Platonic school of 
Alexandria, and who brought from the philosophy 
there taught those sublime conceptions of the Deity, 
which do not admit of independent power being 
ascribed to a being set in opposition to God. He 
taught that all souls originally proceeded from the 
Deity ; that they were by nature capable of being 
either good or evil, and that the character which 
they attain depends upon their own free will, — 

"* Col. ii. 8. t 1 Tim. vi. 20. 


upon the exercise which they choose to make of the 
powers given them by their Creator. 

The very important services, which the erudition 
and the labours of Origen rendered to the Christian 
church, procured a considerable degree of credit to 
the most singular of his opinions in the countries 
where his works were known. Various circum- 
stances conspired, in the course of the fourth cen- 
tury, to diffuse through the west some knowledge 
of his writings ; and Pelagius, a native of Britain, 
who made them his chief study during his residence 
at Rome in the beginning of the fifth century, drew 
from the doctrine which Origen had opposed to 
Manichean errors, the fundamental position of his 
system, that notwithstanding the sin of our first 
parents, we are able, by the powers of our nature, 
without any supernatural aid, to yield obedience to 
the commands of God. The report of this system, 
which, from its affinity to the doctrine of Origen, 
found with many an easy reception, called forth the 
exertions of Augustine, bishop of Hippo, in Africa. 
He had formerly written against the Manicheans : 
but it appeared to him that Pelagius, who, in his 
zeal to maintain that no souls were the work of the 
evil spirit, denied the present corruption of human 
nature, had gone beyond Origen, and had depart- 
ed far from the truth ; and in his voluminous 
works he laid down a system of predestination and 
grace, which, with some little variety of expression, 
is the same with that which we have called Calvin- 
istic. Augustine acknowledged that in the course 
of his studying the Scriptures his sentiments had 
undergone a considerable change ; and those who 
were adverse to his system affirmed that in his writ- 


iiigs. against Peiagiua he adopted many positions 
which he had condemned in the Manicheans. We 
are not bound to defend the consistency of all that 
Augustine has said : but if his system be founded 
in reason and in Scripture, it may unquestionably 
be discriminated from the Manichean system ; and 
we, who hold the Calvinistic tenets, think that we 
are able to make the discrimination. For we con- 
sider the decree, by w^hich a wise and good Being 
from eternity ordained all that is to be, as essentially 
distinct from that fate which excludes every exer- 
cise of intelligence in fixing the great scheme of the 
universe ; and we consider the measure of evil which, 
tbr reasons unknown to us, tlie Almighty Sovereign 
])ermits to exist in his work, as leaving unshaken 
those fundamental principles of religion, which are 
completely undermined by the belief that this evil 
originates from the power of an opposite spirit not 
under the control of God, or from an essential pra- 
vity in matter ^^ hich he is unable to remove. 

From the days of Augustine two opposite systems 
of predestination have been known in the Christian 
church, and each of them has had able and nume- 
rous defenders. The system of Pelagius was modi- 
iied in the writings of Cassian and Faustus ; and, 
under the less offensive form Vvdiich is jcnown by 
the name of Semi-Peiagianism, it obtained a favour- 
able reception in the East, from vrliich it originated. 
But in the western parts of Christendom, v/here the 
Avritings of the learned Augustine were held in the 
highest veneration, the system which he had deline- 
ated received the sanction both of general councils 
and of the Bishops of Rome, who were rising by in- 
sensible steps to the station which they afterwards 


held ; and under this authority it came to be re- 
garded as the orthodox faith of the Latin church. 
The opposite system, however, had many adherents, 
both in Britain, the native country of Pelagius, and 
in Gaul, where Cassian first published the Semi-Pe- 
lagian doctrine ; and it appears that in the universal 
ignorance which overspread Europe during the suc- 
ceeding centuries, many who professed to hold the 
orthodox faith were unacquainted with the extent 
of the doctrine of Augustine. Accordingly we find 
Godeschalcus, an illustrious Saxon monk, persecuted 
in the ninth century by his superiors, and condemn- 
ed by some councils assembled to judge him, for 
holding doctrines which seem to correspond in all 
points with the tenets now called Calvinistic : we 
find his memory vindicated by succeeding councils, 
who declared their approbation of his doctrine ; and 
we learn from the history of his opinions, that the 
Christian church in those days, as in all the contro- 
versies upon the same intricate subject in succeeding 
ages, veered between two systems, of which some- 
times the one, and sometimes the other, was most 
ably defended. 

The question occasioned by the opposition of 
these systems, after having been buried for some 
centuries, like every other, in the barbarity of the 
times, was revived in the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries by Thomas Aquinas, and Joannes Scotus, 
the fathers of school divinity, who, applying the 
language of the philosophy of Aristotle to theolo- 
gical questions, appeared to speak with a precision 
formerly unknov/n, but wiio, multiplying words far 
beyond the number of clear ideas, increased the 
natural darkness of many subjects which they 


pretended to discuss. I will not undertake the 
grievous and worthless labour of explaining the 
terms in which the doctrine of Augustine was 
stated by Thomas Aquinas, a monk of the Domi- 
nican order, nor those in which a doctrine some- 
what similar to that which is now opposed to Au- 
gustine was defended by Scotus, a monk of the 
Franciscan order. The Latin church, of which the 
Bishop of Rome had become the acknowledged 
head, continued to be agitated by the controversy 
between the Thomists and the Scotists ; insomuch 
that although that church venerated the name of 
Augustine, and professed to build its tenets upon 
his authority, individual writers were very far from 
being agreed as to the points that are embraced by 
his system, and the avowed creed of the church was 
gradually removed at a greater distance from the 
doctrine of Augustine. 

When the enormous height which the growing 
corruptions of Popery had attained in the sixteenth 
century induced Martin Luther, a friar of the order 
of St. Austin, to begin the reformation, he adhered 
to the principles of that doctrine in which he had 
been educated ; and in exposing to the indignation 
of mankind the shameful traffic of indulgences, he 
derived, from a system which taught the corruption 
of human nature and the efficacy of divine grace, a 
convincing answer to those tenets of the church of 
Rome concerning the merit of good works upon 
which that traffic was founded. All the parts of 
the system of predestination which are delineated in 
the writings of Augustine were taught by Luther. 
But Melancthon, who was at first his colleague, and 
who succeeded to a considerable share of his influ- 


eiice after his death, was led by an accouunodating 
temper, and by a concurrence of circumstances, to 
adopt principles which it does not appear to me 
possible to distinguish from the Semi-Pelagian. 
These principles entered into the confessions of 
faith and apologies for the cause of reformation, 
which received the sanction of the name of Melanc- 
thon : they were recommended by his authority to 
many of the earliest reformers in Germany ; and 
they continue to form a part of the creed of those 
churches which are called Lutheran. 

In Switzerland, the reformation, which had been 
begun by Zuinglius, received the most valuable 
support from the learning, the abilities, and the 
industry of John Calvin, who settled at Geneva in 
the year 1541, and continued till his death in 1564 
a zealous and indefatigable champion of that doc- 
trine, which he professes to have learned from Au- 
gustine. In his Christian Institutes, which were 
first published in 1536, he acknowledges that it 
was the common opinion that God elected men ac- 
cording to his foreknowledge of their conduct, so 
that predestination rested upon the prescience of 
God. But in opposition to this opinion, which he 
says was both held by the vulgar, and had in all 
ages been defended by authors of great name, he 
lays down that system which we have been accus- 
tomed, in honour of its ablest supporter, to call by 
the name of Calvinism ; and such was the impres- 
sion made upon the minds of men by his writings, 
and so rapidly were his opinions disseminated by 
the numbers who flocked to the university which 
he established at Geneva, that the Calvinistic sys- 
tem of predestination was received by a great part 


of those Christians who left the church of Rome, 
and even by many who had at first embraced the 
tenets of Melancthon. There came in this way to 
be a difference of opinion upon the subject of pre- 
destination between the Lutheran and the Reformed 
churches. We apply the term Lutheran to the 
churches in the German empire, and in the different 
kingdoms of Europe, which adhered to the Confes- 
sion of Augsburg, Confessio Aiigustcma, the decla- 
ration of their faith presented by the Protestants to 
the Diet of the empire, held by Charles V. 1530, 
and to those explications which the controverted 
points not particularly stated in that confession re- 
ceived from the subsequent writings of Melancthon. 
We apply the term Reformed to the churches in 
Germanj^, in Switzerland, in the Netherlands, in 
Britain, in France, and in other parts of Europe, 
whose confessions of faith comprehended the pecu- 
liar tenets of Calvinism. The two words were 
used in this sense soon after the days of Calvin and 
Melancthon, and the same use of them still conti- 
nues. When we speak of the Reformation, we 
mean that revolution in the sentiments of a great 
part of the inhabitants of Europe with regard to 
religion, which Vv^as accomplished in the sixteenth 
century by the united labours of Luther, Melanc- 
thon, Zuinglius, Calvin, Beza, and other reformers. 
But when we speak of the Reformed Churches, we 
generally mean to distinguish them from the Lu- 
theran ; and the name implies that they are consi- 
dered as having departed farther than the Lutheran 
from the corruptions of Popery. Tli^re are differ- 
ences between the Reformed and the Lutheran 
Churches respecting ecclesiastical discipline dml 


government whieli it may afterwards occur to men- 
tion. But the most important difference in point 
of doctrine respects the subject of which we are 
now speaking ; the Reformed, professing in their 
creeds and standards to hold the Calvinistic system 
of predestination ; the Lutheran to adhere to the 
system of Melancthon. 

John Knox, a disciple of Calvin, while he formed 
the constitution of the church of Scotland upon the 
plan of ecclesiastical government which Calvin had 
established in Geneva, introduced into Scotland ail 
the tenets called Calvinistic ; and although the Con- 
fession of Faith, the authentic standard of the faith 
of our church, does not pay any deference to the 
name or authority of the reformer — although the 
ministers of this church are not bound, by subscrib- 
ing the Confession of Faith, to defend every part of 
the conduct of Calvin, and every sentence found in 
his writings, yet the leading features of the doctrine 
of our church concerning predestination are avow- 
edly Calvinistic. In England, the first reform- 
ers," who appeared before the days of Calvin, fol- 
lowed in worship, and in the form of ecclesiasti- 
cal government, the Lutheran churches in which 
they had received their education. But in the days 
of Queen Elizabeth, when the thirty-nine articles, 
which are the Confession of Faith of the church of 
England, came, after much preparation, to be pub- 
lished with royal authority, the doctrines of Calvin 
were held in universal estimation, were taught in 
the English universities, and were the creed of the 
dignified clergy whom the Queen employed in pre- 
paring the articles. Accordingly, even those, who 
hold that the seventeenth article admits of an inter- 


pretation not inconsistent with Arminianism, ac- 
knowledge that it was penned by Calvinists, and that 
the Calvinistic sense, which naturally occurs to every 
reader, was truly the meaning of those who compos- 
ed it. And upon this ground we think ourselves 
entitled to say that the two established churches of 
this island, although distinguished from the time of 
the Reformation in respect of discipline, worship, 
and government, were at first united in holding the 
same doctrine ; and that the standards, which both 
churches continue to require their ministers to sub- 
scribe as the standards of their faith, were originally 
founded upon Calvinistic tenets. 

Upon the Continent, where some churches were 
Lutheran and others Reformed, the points in dis-. 
pute between them were brought strongly before 
the public about the beginning of the seventeenth 
century, by the writings of Arminius, professor of 
divinity in the university of Leyden. Arminius, al- 
though educated in the doctrines of the church of 
Geneva, had early entertained doubts concerning the 
Calvinistic system of predestination ; and, after he 
was admitted professor of divinity, he did not con- 
sider himself bound by any authority, which he could 
not lawfully disobey, to teach that particular system. 
He possessed that vigorous mind, and that acute un- 
derstanding, which prepare a man for deep investi- 
gation. He was not disposed to rest in the opinions 
of others ; and his own conceptions of every subject 
to which he turned his attention were clear and com- 
prehensive. The opinions concerning predestina- 
tion, which were at that time held in the Lutheran 
churches, being more agreeable to his mind than the 
Calvinistic, received from him a scientific form. He 


laid the foundation of them in that view of the pre- 
science of God formerly explained ; and by following 
out leading ideas through all their consequences, he 
introduced that unity of principle, that harmony of 
parts, and that precision and clearness of language, 
which entitle his doctrine to the name of a system. 
This system, recommended by the abilities, the elo- 
quence, and the reputation of Arminius, not only 
spread through the Lutheran churches, but made an 
impression upon the minds of many who had been 
educated in the principles of Calvinism ; and, pro- 
ceeding from an university founded in one of the 
Reformed churches, it encountered at its first ap- 
pearance a most formidable opposition. Arminius 
died in 1609. But the hold which his principles 
had taken of the minds of men, and the zeal with 
which they were propagated by his disciples, excit- 
ed much commotion immediately after his death. 
The inhabitants of the United Provinces, who held 
these principles, presented to the States-general in 
1610 a petition or remonstrance, from which they 
received the name of remonstrants, by which they 
have ever since been distinguished. It happen- 
ed that Grotius, and other leading men in the 
States, who were at that time in opposition to the 
Prince of Orange, favoured the principles of the re- 
monstrants. This circumstance naturally formed 
an union between the house of Orange and the con- 
tra-remonstrants, or Calvinists ; and thus political 
interests came to mingle their influence in the dis- 
cussion of theological questions. Many conferences 
were held between the Arminians and the Calvin- 
ists, without convincing either party. Many schemes 
to accomplish a reconciliation proved abortive ; and 


at length it was resolved by the States of Holland, 
to summon a meeting of deputies from all the Pro- 
testant churches, after the manner of the General 
Councils, which had been held in former ages, where 
the points in dispute might be canvassed and de- 

In the year I6I8, there assembled at Dort, a 
town in the province of South Holland, deputies 
from the churches of the United Provinces, from 
Britain, and from many states in Germany, who 
formed what is known in ecclesiastical history by 
the name of the Synod of Dort, Synodus Dordra- 
cena. The learned and eloquent Episcopius, the 
successor of Arminius, appeared at the head of the 
leading men amongst the Arminians, or Remon- 
strants, to defend their cause. But being dissatis- 
fied with the manner in which the Synod proposed 
to proceed, Episcopius and his adherents refused to 
submit to the directions which were given them as 
to the method of their defence, and in consequence 
of this refusal they were excluded from sitting in 
the assembly. After an hundred and fifty-four 
meetings, the five articles, in which the Arminians 
had at a former conference stated their doctrine, 
were formally condemned by the Synod as heretical. 
What we call the Calvinistic system of predestina- 
tion, was declared by a confession of faith, founded 
on the decrees of the Synod, to be the orthodox 
faith of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands ; 
and the catechism of Heidelberg, which was origi- 
nally composed by order of the Elector Palatine for 
the use of his subjects, and which comprehends the 
leading principles of the Calvinistic system, was 
adopted as one of their standards, a method of in- 


structing the young, and a directory for the public 
teaching of their ministers. In consequence of the 
judgment of the synod of Dort, the Arminians were 
excommunicated, and were at first obliged to leave 
their possessions in the United Provinces. But they 
were recalled in a few years, under a milder admi- 
nistration of government : they are allowed several 
churches in different cities of Holland ; and they 
have a college at Amsterdam, where there has been 
a succession of able men, Episcopius, Limborch, Le 
Clerc, and Wetstein ; who, while they profess to in- 
stil into the candidates for the ministry in their 
communion all the principles which Arminius taught, 
have been accused of approaching gradually much 
nearer to Socinianism than he did. 

The consent given by the British divines to the 
decrees of the Synod is a proof that the churches of 
England and of Scotland, by whom they were sent, 
adhered to the Calvinistic tenets, and that James I. 
who had joined his influence with that of the House 
of Orange in the convocation of the Synod, was dis- 
posed to favour that system. One of the ablest de- 
fences of the Calvinistic system of predestination is 
a small treatise written against Hoard, an Arminian, 
by Davenant, one of the deputies from England, at 
that time professor of divinity in Cambridge, and 
afterwards bishop of Salisbury. The title of his 
book is. Animadversions upon a Treatise, entitled, 
God's Love to mankind. 

But although we seem to be warranted in consi- 
dering the voice of the leading men in Britain as 
favourable to Calvinism, at the time of the meeting 
of the Synod of Dort, it was not long before events, 
chiefly of a political nature, occasioned a revolution 



upon this point in the sentiments of James, and of those 
members of the church of England who were attached 
to the cause of monarchy. The long civil war, and the 
memorable change of government in the seventeenth 
century, arose from the political principles of men who 
were rigidly attached to the worship, discipline, 
government, and doctrine of the church of Geneva. 
The friends of monarchy, on the other hand, were 
attached to the worship, discipline, and govern- 
ment which the church of England had derived 
from the Lutheran churches : and as, in addition 
to these points of difference upon ecclesiastical mat- 
ters, they held the political principles of the republi- 
cans in abhorrence, it was natural for them to con- 
ceive a prejudice against the theological doctrine of 
these republicans. They unavoidably felt a strong- 
propensity to adopt a system of predestination by 
which they might be allied more closely to the 
Lutheran churches, with whom they had many 
points in common, and completely discriminated from 
the Calvinists, with whom they did not wish to 
maintain any connexion. Archbishop Laud, to whom 
Charles L committed the direction of the ecclesias- 
tical affairs of Britain, wrote a small treatise in the 
year 1625, to prove that the articles of the church of 
England admit of an Arminian sense : the counte- 
nance of the court was confined to those divines who 
favoured the Arminian system ; and although the 
church of England never publicly renounced Calvin- 
ism, yet it is certain that an attachment to that sys- 
tem of doctrine came to be the distingviishing badge 
of the Puritans, who derived their name from pre- 
tending to a more spiritual kind of worship than the 
Episcopalians, but who were known as much by the 


firmness with which they held the tenets of the 
church of Geneva, as by their abhorrence of forms. 

When, in the progress of the commotions of the 
seventeenth centur}^, episcopacy was voted to be use- 
less and burdensome, an assembly of divines was held 
at Westminster, " for the purpose of settling the 
government and liturgy of the church of England, 
and for vindicating and clearing the doctrine of the 
said church from false aspersions and interpreta- 
tions." What we call the Confession of Faith was 
composed by that assembly, as a part of the uniform- 
ity in religion which was then intended, and which 
it was the object of the Solemn League and Cove- 
nant to preserve between the churches in the three 
kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland. When 
presbytery was established in Scotland at the Revo- 
lution, this Confession of Faith was ratified in the 
Scottish parliament : it afterwards I'eceived the sanc- 
tion of the treaty of Union ; and it continues to be 
the avowed confession of the church of Scotland. 
But in England, when episcopacy was revived after 
the Restoration, the thirty-nine articles became, as 
formerly, the standard of that church; the Confes- 
sion of Faith was of course set aside ; and the for- 
mer prejudices against some of its doctrines were 
very much confirmed in the minds of those who were 
attached to episcopacy and monarchy, by their ab- 
horrence of the views and the success of those who 
had given orders for its being composed. 

The circumstances which have been mentioned 
explain the manner in which Calvinism came to be 
regarded, by the body of the people in England, as 
a name nearly allied to republicanism ; and no per- 
son, who is acquainted with the history of the fac- 
tions of that country, can entertain a doubt that po-. 


litical causes have contributed very largely to the 
disrepute in which that system has been held by 
many dignified and learned members of our neigh- 
bouring church. At the same time, it must be ac- 
knowledged that several divines of that church, who 
were very much superior to the weakness of being 
led in their theological creed by an attachment to 
any political party, have lent the support of their 
erudition and abilities to some mitigated form of 
Arminianism. Of this kind were Barrow, Clarke, 
Whitby, and Jortin. There were also many wise 
and able men in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies, who endeavoured to represent the points of 
difference between the Arminians and Calvinists as 
of little importance, and who received the name of 
Latitudinarians, from wishing to unite all true Pro- 
testants against the approaches of Popery. Of this 
kind were Chillingworth, Tillotson, Cudworth, and 

It is farther to be noticed, that there has long been 
a general wish in the members of the church of Eng- 
land, to consider themselves as not fettered to any 
particular system of predestination by the articles 
which they subscribe. Bishop Burnet declares him- 
self to be an Arminian ; and after giving, in his ex- 
position of the seventeenth article, with an imparti- 
ality more apparent than real, and with some degree 
of confusion, a view of the arguments upon both 
sides, he concludes in these words, " It is very pro- 
bable that those who penned this article meant that 
the decree was absolute ; but yet, since they have not 
said it, those who subscribe the articles do not seem 
to be bound to any thing that is not expressed in 
them ; and, therefore, although the Calvinists have 
less occasion for scruple, since the article does seem 


more plainly to favour them, the Remonstrants may 
subscribe this article without renouncing their opi- 
nion as to this matter." He says, in another place, 
" The church has not been peremptory, but a lati- 
tude has been left to different opinions." And Dr. 
Jortin, in his dissertation on the controversies con- 
cerning predestination and grace, which was publish- 
ed in 1755, tells us how far this latitude has been 
used. With a partiality to his own system, and a 
virulence against his adversaries, which often appear 
to an excessive and shameful degree in his writings, 
he thus expresses himself : " In England, at the time 
of the Synod of Dort, we were much divided in our 
opinions concerning the controverted articles ; but 
our divines having taken the liberty to think and 
judge for themselves, and the civil government not 
interposing, it hath come to pass that from that time 
to this, almost all persons here of any note for learn- 
ing and abilities, have bid adieu to Calvinism, have 
sided with the Remonstrants, and have left the Fa- 
talists to follow their own opinions, and to rejoice 
(since they can rejoice) in a religious system, con- 
sisting of human creatures without liberty, doctrines 
without sense, faith without reason, and a God with- 
out mercy." 

Dr. Prettyman, or Tomline, bishop of Lincoln, 
who, in his Elements of Christian Theology, has 
given a large commentary on the 39 Articles, la- 
bours to prove that the seventeenth admits of an 
Arminian sense, and writes against Calvinism with 
the virulence of a man who does not understand 
it. He has also published a second work, which 
he calls a Refutation of Calvinism — a strange title 
for a book avowedly written by a dignitary of that 


church, whose founders were Calvinists, and one 
of whose articles, prepared by them in its natural 
and obvious meaning-, announces the characteristi- 
cal doctrines of Calvinism. I waited with much 
impatience for this book : but was greatly disap- 
pointed with its contents. It contains hardly any 
general reasoning ; it is chiefly a collection and ex- 
position of texts, which have been often brought 
forward by Arminian writers ; and a repetition of 
that abuse which they are in the habit of pouring 
forth lupon those who differ from them. The book 
has already past through many editions, and meet- 
ing the prejudices and wishes of a great body of 
the English clergy, is extremely popular in Eng- 
land. But it is by no means formidable in point 
of argument : and however much it may be ad- 
mired by those who wish to believe the system 
which it professes to support, it will not shake the 
creed of any person well instructed in the funda- 
mental principles of Calvinism. 

While therefore the members of the church of 
Scotland, by subscribing the Confession of Faith, 
find themselves equally restrained from avowing 
Arminian and Arian tenets, the members of the 
church of England continually use that liberty 
which they consider as left to them, and think 
that they adhere to the orthodox faith of their 
church, when they defend the doctrine of the 
Trinity and the doctrine of Atonement, although 
they disclaim the literal Calvinistic interpretation 
of the seventeenth article. Amongst the minis- 
ters of the established church of England, there 
are some who adopt this interpretation, and who 
upon that account are called doctrinal Calvinists, 


There are Universalists, who, without entering far- 
ther into the disputed points, consider the benefit 
of the death of Christ as extending to all, either 
by the general resurrection, or by the general of- 
fer of pardon upon easy terms ; and there are 
others who scruple not to avow their attachment 
to all the parts of the Arminian doctrine. 

It might be thought that in the church of Rome 
the infallibility of the Pope would furnish an ef- 
fectual antidote against theological controversy. 
Yet, even in that church, the questions in dilute 
between the Arminians and Calvinists have never 
been decided ; and large bodies of Roman Catho- 
lics have received distinguishing names from the 
tenets which they hold in relation to these ques- 
tions. The church of Rome was inclined, by the 
whole system of its corruptions, as well as by its 
antipathy to the first reformers, to adhere to the 
Semi-Pelagian doctrine. The council of Trent 
was summoned in the sixteenth century, to give a 
decent colour to these corruptions, and to crush 
the Reformation. But the fear of offending the 
Dominicans, who held the doctrine of Augustine, 
restrained the council from openly avowing the 
Semi-Pelagian doctrine ; and their decree upon 
this point, like many other wary decisions of that 
pretended oracle, is expressed with such obscurity 
and ambiguity, as to leave the matter undecided. 
The learning of the Jesuits, whose order arose 
about the middle of the sixteenth century, was 
employed, from the time of their institution, to 
overturn the doctrine of the reformers ; and the 
term scientia media, invented by Molina, and intro- 
duced in the year 1588 into the controversy con- 


cerning predestination, was generally adopted by 
his brethren. The Jesuits were in this manner op- 
posed to the Dominicans ; and the controversy has 
been the occasion of many distractions and con- 
vulsions in the church of Rome, which the autho- 
rity of succeeding Popes has been unable to sup- 
press, and which their wisdom has not found an 
expedient method of healing. The Dominicans 
received, about the middle of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, very powerful aid from Jansenius, who, in a 
book entitled Augustinus, gave a full and faithful 
picture of the sentiments of Augustine, upon the 
corruption of human nature, predestination, and 
divine aid. This exhibition of the sentiments of 
Augustine demonstrated, that the Jesuits, the most 
zealous supporters of a church which professes the 
highest veneration for that father, had, upon these 
subjects, departed very far from his doctrine. The 
Jesuits, who saw that their credit was in danger of 
being shaken by this discovery, exerted their in- 
fluence at different times, in procuring from the 
Popes a condemnation of the book of Jansenius. 
His followers have often endured persecution ; and 
the boasted unity of the Koman church was inter- 
rupted, both in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies, by the bitterest contests between those who, 
from adhering to the interpretation which Molina 
gave of this intricate subject, were known by the 
name of Molinists, and those who, having received 
the knowledge of the doctrine of Augustine from 
the book of Jansenivis, are called Jansenists. 

The private passions which mingled their influ- 
ence with the controversies relating to predestina- 
tion, either in the Roman or in the Protestant church. 


are of no importance to a fair inquirer after truth. 
But it is impossible to look back upon the various 
forms of agitating the same questions which have 
presented themselves to us in this short review, 
without perceiving, that however strongly the hu- 
man mind is disposed to inquire into the subject, 
there is much intricacy in the questions connected 
with it, and little probability of arriving at those 
clear and short conclusions which may prevent fu- 
ture dispute. 

Hence, upon this subject, as upon the subject of 
the Trinity, there are two very important lessons 
that naturally result from all our researches, which 
I may be allowed to take this opportunity of im- 
pressing upon the minds of my students. The first 
lesson is, that they should beware of engaging the 
people to whom they may be called to discourse, in 
those thorny speculations from which they may find 
it impossible to disentangle themselves, and where 
the incapacity of perceiving the truth may engender 
errors very hurtful to their comfort and their vir- 
tue. The secret will of God appears, from the very 
nature of the expression, to form no part of the 
business of preaching. Our commission is to declare 
to the people his revealed will : and although it may 
often be impossible for us to explain particular pas- 
sages of Scripture, or to treat of some of the pecu- 
liar doctrines of Christianity, without a reference to 
the doctrine of predestination ; yet care ought to be 
taken to present only those clear unembarrassed 
views of that doctrine which naturally connect with 
practice, never to amuse the people with an account 
of the abuses of the doctrine, but to say what we 
judge proper to say of it in such a manner as to be 


assured that they shall learn no such abuse from us ; 
and to endeavour, above all things, to leave upon 
their minds a strong impression of these most im- 
portant truths, that however certain the doctrine of 
predestination is in general, the only certainty which 
any individual can attain of his predestination is in- 
separably joined with the distinguished exercise of 
every Christian grace ; and that all the hearers of 
the Gospel are required, both by the nature of the 
thing, and by the constant tenor of Scripture, to try 
themselves, whether they are in the number of the 
elect, by the fruits of their election. 

The second lesson which naturally results from 
our researches upon this subject is, that men of spe- 
culation should exercise mutual forbearance. It is 
not a matter of surprise, that persons of the most 
enlightened minds should now differ upon points 
which have divided the opinions of mankind ever 
since they began to speculate. It is not to be sup- 
posed that all the consequences which may be shown 
to flow from any system are held by every one who 
defends that system ; for he may either not see that 
the consecpiences arise, or he may find some me- 
thod of evading them. The Calvinists are not an- 
swerable for the various abuses of their doctrine 
which gave birth to the Fanatics and Antinomians 
of different ages ; for they are able to show that 
in all these abuses their doctrine is perverted. Nor 
are the Arminians to be charged with those im- 
worthy conceptions of the Deity wdiich to many ap- 
pear inseparable from their system ; for they mean 
to place the justice and goodness of God in the most 
honourable light ; and it appears to them that they 
err on the safe side, and that thev derive a suffi- 


cient excuse from the sublimity of the subject, and 
the weakness of our faculties, if, in their zeal to 
maintain the honour of the moral attributes of the 
Deity, they seem to derogate from his sovereignty 
and independence. 

While our researches upon this subject suggest 
these two lessons, there are also two rules to be 
observed in reading upon this controversy, which 
are rendered necessary by the manner of its being 
handled in former times. The first is, not to form 
an opinion of either system from the writings of 
those who oppose it, but to do both sides the jus- 
tice of considering what they say for themselves. The 
Arminians and the Calvinists are very much upon 
a footing in respect of the foul abuse which they 
have poured upon one another. But it should al- 
ways be remembered, and, as far as my observation 
goes, it is a rule which you may safely follow in 
reading upon every subject, that from whomsoever 
abuse proceeds, it deserves to be treated with equal 
contempt ; that if it is not a sure mark of the weak- 
ness of the reasoning with which it is connected, 
it certainly does not make the reasoning stronger ; 
and that every candid reader sets aside all the ex- 
pressions of mutual reproach, which find a place in 
the discussion of any question, as of no avail to 
the argument. 

The second rule which is necessary in reading 
upon this controversy, is not to think yourselves 
obliged to defend every position of those writers 
whose general system you approve, or every view of 
the subject which they may have presented, and to 
beware of conceiving any prejudice against the truth, 
because you find it impossible to adopt all that has 


been said by the friends of the truth. It has hap- 
pened that many Calvinists in former times, with 
gloomy notions of the Deity, with a slender know- 
ledge of philosophy, and with much animosity against 
their adversaries, have exhibited their system in a 
dress very little fitted to recommend it to the world ; 
and it is common with Arminian writers to give a 
picture of that system in a number of the most ex- 
ceptionable passages quoted from books of those 
times. This is an art very likely to succeed with 
men who have not leisure or capacity to inquire ; 
and I have no doubt that the disrespectful terms in 
which Calvinism is often mentioned by many shal- 
low thinkers, and even by some respectable clergy- 
men in the church of England, arises entirely from 
their having read such quotations, and perhaps little 
more, upon the subject. 

Although the style of writing upon this contro- 
versy, which occurs in many books, renders these 
rules necessary, it is our happiness to live in a more 
enlightened and polished age, when the asperity of 
former times is universally condemned, when the 
views of men are very much enlarged, and when 
Calvinism has formed an alliance with philosophy. 
The celebrated metaphysician Leibnitz, who flourish- 
ed in the beginning of the eighteenth century, al- 
though a member of the Lutheran church, illustrat- 
ed and established the doctrine of philosophical ne- 
cessity, or the perfect consistency of the freedom of 
a moral agent with the infallible determination of 
his conduct, which is the foundation of Calvinism. 
There is a small book of his entitled, " Essais de 
Theodicee, sur la bonte de Dieu, la liberte de Thom- 
me, et I'origine du mal," which contains almost all 


the principles upon which I have rested the defence 
of the Calvinistic tenets. Wolfius trod in the steps 
of Leibnitz. Canzius published a book, entitled 
** Philosophiae Leibnitianae et Wolfianee usus in 
Theologia per praecipua fidei capita;" and several 
systems of theology, written in the course of the 
eighteenth century, by divines of the Reformed 
churches on the continent, as Wyttenbach, and Stap- 
fer, and by Edwards in America, have applied the 
philosophy of Leibnitz and Wolfius to explain and 
vindicate the doctrines of Calvin. These doctrines, 
instead of appearing liable to that charge of absur- 
dity, which the Arminian writers in all times, and 
even in the present day, have not scrupled in oppro- 
brious terms to advance, now assume a rational and 
philosophical form, and appear to be a consistent 
whole, arising out of a few leading ideas followed 
out to their consequences : while the Arminians ap- 
pear to be only half-thinkers, who stop short before 
they arrive at the conclusion ; and although they 
will not, like the Socinians, deny the principles, yet 
refuse to follow the Calvinists in making the appli- 
cation of them. 

I have no difficulty in concluding the subject, 
which has engaged our attention for so long a time, 
by declaring it to be my conviction that the Calvin- 
istic system is the most philosophical. The Armi- 
nians indeed have often boasted that all the men of 
learning and genius are on their side, and that those 
only who choose to walk in trammels adhere to Cal- 
vinism. But there is reason to think that the pro- 
gress of philosophy will gradually produce a revolu- 
tion in the minds of men ; that those opinions con- 
cerning the nature of human liberty, and the extent 


of the providence of God, from which the Calvinistic 
system is easily deduced, although they have not re- 
ceived the countenance of Dr. Reid in his essays on 
the active powers, will, even in opposition to his re- 
spectable name, find a place in every system of pneu- 
matics ; and that there will thus be diffused amongst 
calm inquirers a more general impression that the 
doctrine of the first reformers, with regard to pre- 
destination, admits of a better defence than it receiv- 
ed from them. It gives me particular satisfaction 
to observe, that the late Dr. Horsley, bishop of St. 
Asaph, one of the profoundcst scholars that ever 
adorned the church of England, although he has not 
adopted all the Calvinistic tenets, has laid down in 
the most precise and satisfactory manner, those prin- 
ciples from which all the tenets of Calvin that we 
are obliged to hold appear to me readily to flow. In 
a sermon upon providence and free agency, he has 
declared his conviction with regard to the certain in- 
fluence of motives as final causes, in reference to 
which the mind puts forth its powers, and as the 
means by which God governs the intelligent creation; 
and also with regard to the infallible predetermina- 
tion of those events which the Almighty in this man- 
ner accomplishes. The friends of Calvinism require 
nothing more. We may reject every tenet which 
does not result from these principles ; and w^e may 
solace ourselves under the scorn of many superficial 
writers in the church of England who condemn what 
they do not understand, with the countenance of this 
respectable auxiliary, who, without declaring him- 
self a partisan, has lent his assistance in clearing that 
strong ground which every sound and able Calvinist 
will now occupy. 





The fifth book is the conclusion of that part of my 
course which is properly theological, and means to 
present a short view of many particular questions 
which have arisen out of the general principles, and 
of the technical terms, which, having occurred in 
discussing these questions, now form a part of the 
language of theology. Some of the questions turn 
upon the Nature of the Remedy ; much the greater 
part upon the Extent and the Application of it. But 
none of them will require to be handled with any 
detail ; for the length to which they are spread out 
in ordinary systems is only a repetition under differ- 
ent forms of the same principles. My object is sim- 
ply to furnish you with an index of the questions to 
which they have been applied, and a vocabulary of 
the language, which has acquired a currency amongst 
the writers upon that science which you profess to 




To men considered as sinners, i, e. both guilty and 
corrupt, the Gospel brings a remedy. The remedy 
is of saving benefit only to those by whom it is em- 
braced. It cannot be embraced unless it be known ; 
but it is made known to all to whom the Gospel is 
published ; and the intimation given by publishing 
it, together with the invitation and the command to 
embrace it which always accompanies the intimation, 
has received, according to an expression frequent in 
the Epistles, the name of a call. " God hath called 
you by our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of 
our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thess. ii. 14. 

The Arminians admit no other call but that which 
is common to all who live in a Christian country, 
and which is obeyed or rejected according to the dis- 
position of the person who receives it. But the Cal- 
vinists are led by their principles to make a distinc- 
tion between external and effectual calling, in support 
of which they quote these words of our Lord, — 
" Many are called, but few are chosen." The exter- 
nal call, which is addressed to all who live in a 
Christian country, carries along with it such evidences 
of the divine original of the Gospel, so striking an 
exhibition of the love of God to mankind, and so 



strong an obligation upon every reasonable being to 
attend, that it aggravates the condemnation of those 
by whom it is rejected. But finding men alienated 
from the life of God, corrupted in their understand- 
ings, their will, and their affections, it has not the 
effect of inducing them to embrace the remedy, un- 
less it be accompanied by the operations of the Spirit 
of God. These operations, in their full extent, are 
peculiar to the elect for whom they were purchased, 
and to whom they are applied through the mediation 
of Christ ; and therefore to them only the external 
call becomes effectual ; in other words, they only ac- 
cept the invitation, and obey the command given 
them by that call. The call is rendered effectual 
with regard to them by the removal of that corrup- 
tion which renders it ineffectual with regard to o- 
thers ; — by a change of character, which, in respect 
of the understanding, is such an illumination as 
qualifies them for receiving knowledge; in respect of 
the will, is an influence so powerful as effectually in- 
clines them to follow the inducements that are pro- 
posed in the word of God ; and in respect of the whole 
soul, produces a refinement and elevation by which 
the affections are determined to the worthiest ob- 
jects. This introduction of the principles of a new 
life, into those who are considered as spiritually dead, 
is called, in conformity to Scripture language, rege- 
neration.* It is also called conversion, a turning 
men from that state of mind and those habits of 
life, which enter into our view when we speak of 
human nature as corrupt, to those sentiments and 
habits which proceed from the Spirit of God.f And 

* John iii. 3, 5. 2 Cor. v. 17- Ephes. iv. 22, 23, 24-. 
t Matth. xviii. 3. Acts iii. 19 ; xv. 3. 1 Thess. i. 9- 


it is evident that when a man is thus converted, all 
the obstacles to his accepting the invitation in the 
Gospel cease to exist, and the remedy there provided, 
approving itself to his understanding and his heart, 
is cordially embraced. 

Infinite is the number of questions which have 
been agitated in different periods concerning the 
manner of this conversion. But as there are two 
extremes in the opinions upon this subject, in the 
middle between which the Calvinistic system pro- 
fesses to lie, it is easy, without entering into any 
detail as to the shades of difference that distin- 
guish particular opinions, to apprehend the lead- 
ing principles of those who lean to either extreme, 
and to perceive the caution with which the Cal- 
vinists keep clear of both. Upon the one side are 
the Pelagians, the Semi- Pelagians, and all those 
who, under whatever name, and with whatever mo- 
difications, hold what has been called the Syner- 
gistical system. That system derives its name 
from representing man as co-operating with God 
in his conversion, and the efficacy of the grace of 
God as depending upon that co-operation. The 
Calvinistic system is directly opposed to this ex- 
treme ; and the principles which have been illus- 
trated afford an answer to all the forms which the 
Synergistical doctrine can assume. Upon the 
other side lie all the degrees and shades of the 
ancient mystical theology, which is now better 
known by the name of fanaticism. The character 
of that theology, and the manner of discriminating 
Calvinism from an extreme to which it seems to 
approach, are now to be illustrated. 

The mystical spirit appeared very early in the 


Christian church. Its origin is to be traced not 
so much to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, 
as to the alliance which our religion very early 
formed with the Platonic philosophy. Plato held 
that the soul of man is an emanation from the su- 
preme mind, at present imprisoned in the body, 
detained by its connexion with matter, from hold- 
ing communion with the Father of spirits, and ex- 
posed by the contamination of surrounding objects 
to the danger of being disqualified for returning 
to its original. He taught, therefore, that it is the 
duty of man by meditation and retirement, to dis- 
entangle himself from his present fetters, and to 
prepare his soul, by a gradual emancipation, for 
the freer and happier life which awaits it after it 
is raised above every thing terrestrial. This prin- 
ciple, when applied with those qualifications and re- 
strictions that are rendered necessary by the active 
engagements of life, lays the foundation of magna- 
nimity, of sentimental devotion, and of many ex- 
ercises which contribute in a high degree to the 
purification of the mind. But the principle is ea- 
sily corrupted, and produces in men of warm ima- 
ginations, of constitutional indolence, or of feeble 
spirits, a variety of abuse, hurtful both to society 
and to the character of the individual. It was 
adopted in the third century by Origen, a zealous 
disciple of the Platonic school. Finding a ready 
admission with many learned Christians who had 
been educated in that school, and being diffused 
by the credit of Origen's writings through a great 
part of the Christian world, it early began to pro- 
duce those corruptions, which, under different names, 


and with very diiferent effects, have continued from 
that time to the present day. 

From this Platonic principle, incorporated with 
the doctrines of the Gospel, proceeded the whole 
race of hermits and monks, who, beginning with 
Paul the hermit in the third century, spread over 
all parts of Christendom, and have left traces of 
their existence in every land. Some lived in soli- 
tude ; others in small societies ; but all professed, 
by a life of abstemiousness, mortification and pe- 
nance, to raise their souls to a more intimate com- 
munion with the Deity than is granted to ordinary 
men. From the same principle proceeded the pre- 
tences to immediate inspiration, assumed by men, 
who, continuing to live in the world, were con- 
ceived to be in this manner exalted above their 
neighbours as the favourites of heaven. 

It is the province of ecclesiastical history to 
mark the shades of difference between the philo- 
sophy of the ancient Mystics, the pretended theur- 
gy or magic of the followers of Paracelsus, the 
bloody, turbulent, levelling spirit which appeared 
in Germany at the time of the Reformation, the 
peaceful submissive spirit of the Quakers, who 
arose in the seventeenth century, the presumptu- 
ous familiarity in the language and tenets of An- 
tonia Bourignon, against which our church guards 
her ministers under the name of Bourignionism, 
and the blasphemous incomprehensible jargon of 
Jacob Behmen. Whatever were their points of 
difference, they all agreed in the general character 
of fanaticism, the pretending to such an immedi- 
ate communication with the Deitv as furnished an 


inward light, to the guidance of which they resigned 

Some fanatics have approached so near to Deisti- 
cal principles, as to believe that there is an inward 
light common to all men, and sufficient, without any- 
extraordinary revelation, to bring those who follow 
it to eternal life. Others, among whom is the cele- 
brated Barclay, the author of the apology for the 
Quakers, treading in the steps of the advocates for 
universal redemption, consider this inward light as. 
one of the benefits of the Gospel, procured for man- 
kind by the interposition of Jesus Christ, but ex- 
tending to all in every country, whether they have 
heard of the Gospel or not, and given with equal 
liberality to every man to be excited and improved 
by his own endeavours. And there are fanatics, 
who, adhering to the Calvinistic ideas, with regard 
to the extent of the remedy, consider this inward 
light as peculiar to the elect. The ancient mystics, 
who had learned in the Platonic school to regard the 
Son as the reason and wisdom of the Father, and to 
call him by the names, ^w?, copa, considered the in- 
ward light vouchsafed to men as a portion of this 
reason or wisdom, an emanation from Christ the 
true light ; and many modern fanatics, retaining 
this idea, although ignorant of the philosophical lan- 
guage from which it arose, and applying it to the 
Scripture phrases, " Christ dwelling in us, Christ 
formed in us," are accustomed to call the inward 
light to which they pretend, the hidden Christ, or 
the Christ within : while other fanatics, who, with 
the generality of Christians, regard the Holy Ghost 
as a distinct person, the fountain and distributer of 
spiritual influences, mean by the inward light the 


operation of the Spirit upon the mind. But whe- 
ther the inward light be conceived as proceeding 
from the action of the Spirit or the inhabitation of 
the Son, — whether it be conceived as the portion of 
all men, or as peculiar to the favourites of heaven, 
this is the general character of what we call fanati- 
cism, that the inward light is understood to be a 
perfect guide to those who enjoy it, and the only- 
guide which they are obliged to follow. Religion, 
with them, consists entirely of feeling, an inexpres- 
sible delight, which supersedes or renders in a great 
measure insignificant, every thing external. It ap- 
pears to them of little importance whether the un- 
derstanding be informed, provided the heart be 
touched. They are more solicitous about the alle- 
gorical sense which the Scriptures may receive, than 
about the facts or reasonings contained in them. 
They consider Christ without, or the facts recorded 
in the history of his life, and the precepts delivered 
in his ^own discourses and the writings of his 
apostles, as furnishing a directory of a very inferior 
kind to Christ within them. They undervalue the 
ordinances of religion ; they think it better patient- 
ly to wait for the illapse of the Spirit than to make 
any exertion of their own ; and they rank the most 
punctual performance of the great duties of justice 
and benevolence very far below certain sentiments 
and emotions, by which they consider the Deity as 
manifesting himself to their souls, as vouchsafing of 
his special love a revelation not granted to other 
men, and as maintaining that communion with them 
by which they are effectually called, separated from 
sinners, and made partakers of a divine nature. 
This is fanaticism, the distinguishing feature of 


some societies, both of ancient and of modern date, 
and some tincture of which may often be met with 
among those who belong to the established church. 
It is a very dangerous spirit, because it tends to sub- 
stitute, in place of that clear, precise rule, which the 
word of God delivers to all, something which is un- 
defined and unknown, something which, depending 
in a great measure upon bodily constitution, is very 
much what every man chooses to make it. It tends 
to beget presumption in men of warm imaginations, 
and the deepest despair in persons of feeble spirits 
and of constitutional melancholy. It nourishes ar- 
rogance, and a contempt of others ; and it has often 
relaxed the obligations of morality, by holding forth 
an ideal perfection, a spiritual communion, an ap- 
proach of the soul to God, as better than the calm 
and uniform performance of those things which are 
good and profitable to men. 

It is of very great importance that those, who 
declai'e their assent to the Calvinistic system, and 
who are bound to make that system the rule of their 
public teaching, should not confound it with fana- 
ticism, but should perceive the clear and strong line 
by which the two are discriminated. Calvinism 
adopts as one of its fundamental principles an im- 
mediate action of God upon the soul, and in this re- 
spect it appears to agree with fanaticism. But the 
distinction is this ; that immediate action of God, 
upon which Calvinism proceeds, is such an action as 
restores the whole nature of man ; not merely ex- 
citing sentiments and emotions, but conveying light 
to his understanding, invigorating his powers of 
action, and calling forth into exercise all those prin- 
ciples which unite in forming the constitution of a 


reasonable and moral agent. This action is conceiv- 
ed to be so entirely the work of God, as to admit, 
at the time of its being first exerted, of no co-opera- 
tion from the being whose nature is restored ; and 
hence the Calvinistic system stands in direct opposi- 
tion to the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian doctrine. 
But the very purpose of the action is to give the 
being who is restored the capacity of co-operating 
in the production of an end ; and that end is accom- 
plished by various means which are exhibited, that 
thej^ may operate upon him according to the laws of 
his nature, and by various exertions which, being 
the effect of the restoration of his faculties through 
the grace imparted to him, have no worth or value 
except what they derive from that grace, but still 
are as much his own exertions, as if they had been 
performed by the original vmassisted powers of his 
nature. In this kind of action there is no danger 
of delusion ; no disjunction of emotion from know- 
ledge, for the heart is addressed through the under- 
standing ; no encouragement to undervalue the word 
of God and the ordinances of religion, for these are 
the means by which the Spirit operates ; no temp- 
tation to neglect the duties of morality, for these 
are the fruits of the Spirit. And thus Calvinism is 
manifestly discriminated from fanaticism, by the na- 
ture and the effects of that action which it repre- 
sents the Father of Spirits as exerting upon the 

It is readily admitted by the Calvinists, that God 
may act upon the mind of man in what manner he 
pleases ; and the account which they give of the 
conversion of those who are elected, but who by their 
situation are excluded from the outward means of 


conversion, discovers that, in their opinion, the so- 
vereignty of divine grace is unlimited. For as they 
hold that God, who in the ordinary course of his 
providence makes use of means, is free to work 
without, above, and against them at his pleasure ; 
so they hold also that elect infants, and other elect 
persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by 
the ministry of the word, " are regenerated by Christ 
through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, 
and how he pleaseth." But while the Calvinists, 
according to their own principles, consider the Al- 
mighty as in no respect restrained by the means 
which he himself has appointed, they consider the 
use of outward means as the ordinary course of his 
procedure in converting those who are within their 
reach, as appointed with wisdom, and as deriving 
from his appointment an authority which renders 
it unwarrantable and presumptuous in any person 
to set up a private rule in preference to them. Ac- 
cordingly, our Confession of Faith declares that no- 
thing is, at any time, to be added to the Scriptures, 
whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or tradi- 
tions of men ; and that the Supreme Judge, by which 
all private spirits, all pretences to inward illumina- 
tion, are to be examined, can be no other but the 
Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures. * 

When we attend to the general strain of Scrip- 
ture, to which we are directed as the judge by which 
all private spirits are to be examined, we find it op- 
posite to fanaticism. In Scripture the words of 
truth and soberness are delivered ; facts are related 
with minuteness ; evidence is distinctly proposed ; 

* Confession of Faith, i. 6;, 10. 


knowledge is conveyed to the understanding ; ordi- 
nances are appointed for the benefit of all ; precepts 
are given for the direction of all ; and men are con- 
ducted as rational beings, by the exercise of their 
own powers, to that temper of mind and those ac- 
tions which are connected with salvation. 

The general strain of Scripture is so opposite to 
fanaticism, that it appears at first sight to favour 
the Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian doctrine. We meet 
everywhere with commands, as if the being address- 
ed were able to obey them ; with counsels, as if 
nothing more than moral suasion were necessary to 
overcome his unwillingness ; with various expres- 
sions of the connexion between his duty and his 
happiness, as if his everlasting condition depend- 
ed upon his own exertions. These conclusions in- 
deed are soon found to be too hasty, because we 
meet also with descriptions of his condition, which 
imply that he is of himself unable to do any thing, 
and with promises of a supernatural influence, which 
is represented as the only sufficient cause of his con- 
version. But we must not, in our zeal against Pe- 
lagianism, allow these descriptions and promises to 
drive us into fanaticism, for then we render the 
commands, the counsels, and the promises unmean- 
ing. The true medium between the two extremes 
is that which the Calvinists endeavour to hold, when 
they consider a man who is regenerated by the grace 
of God, as restored to the full possession and the 
renewed exercise of all his faculties, to a state in 
which truth illuminates his mind, the influence of 
moral inducements is felt, the exercises of devotion 
conspire with education and moral discipline in re- 
fining his character, the worthiest objects engage 


his affections, the most honourable and useful em- 
ployments fill up his time, and he is led, in a man- 
ner corresponding with his reasonable nature and 
with the condition assigned him in this world, to 
that happiness which is prepared for him in ano- 

The views which have been given are the best 
preservative against that spirit which we call fana- 
ticism. For according to these views, that cordial 
acceptance of the Gospel remedy, which is known 
in theological language by the name of faith, al- 
though the fruit of the operation of the Holy Spirit, 
is attained by the same rational procedure as any 
other abiding sentiment. The word of God, the 
ordinances of religion, the opportunities of informa- 
tion and improvement, habits of attention and do- 
cility, the dispositions of a good and honest heart, 
and the virtues of an active life, all have their pro- 
per value, and conspire in their place, under the di- 
rection of the Spirit of God from whom they pro- 
ceed, to the effectual application of that remedy 
which his love has provided. 

According to the Calvinistic system, the faith 
which is produced by the action of God upon the 
soul, is not a sudden impulse, a solitary act, a tran- 
sient emotion, but a habit or permanent state of 
mind, proceeding upon many previous acts, and em- 
bracing many kindred dispositions. As it implies 
an exercise of the understanding illuminated by the 
Spirit of God, it supposes previous knowledge ; a 
knowledge of the facts which constitute the histoiy 
of our religion, of the arguments which constitute 
the evidence of it, of the doctrines and precepts 
which constitute the substance of it. Hence arises 


the propriety of that instruction continually address- 
ed by the reading and preaching of the word to those 
in whom faith may be produced. Hence we con- 
demn both the blind implicit faith, which the church 
of Rome requires by human authority from those 
whom she studies to keep in ignorance ; and also 
that contempt of knowledge, and that entire depend- 
ence upon present emotions which are the charac- 
ters of fanaticism. And in thus representing faith 
as a rational act, we follow the direction of our 
Lord, who commands Christians to " search the 
Scriptures ;" * and the direction of Peter, who ex- 
horts them to " be ready always to give an answer 
to every one that asketh a reason of the hope that 
is in them." f 

On the other hand, it appears from what has 
been stated, that a knowledge of the facts of our re- 
ligion, and an assent upon evidence to its truth, is 
not the whole of faith. For the Gospel does not 
contain general propositions, which may be suppos- 
ed to find at all times a ready admission into a spe- 
culative mind, and concerning which nothing more 
is required than to perceive that they are true ; but 
its peculiar character being this, that it brings a re- 
medy for the present state of moral evil, the mind, 
according to the view of human nature upon which 
the Calvinistic system proceeds, is not disposed to 
accept of the remedy until a change upon the will 
and the affections be produced by the Spirit of God. 
Hence faith stands opposed to that love of sin which 
produces an aversion to the remedy, to that love of 
the world which produces an indifference about it. 

* John V. 39. t I Pet. iii. 1 5. 


to that pride and self-confidence which make it ap- 
pear unnecessary ; and faith implies what our Lord 
calls " a good and honest heart," humbleness of 
mind, poverty of spirit, hungering and thirsting af- 
ter righteousness, all those moral dispositions, which 
lead us with cordiality and thankfulness to embrace 
that method of being delivered from the evils of sin 
which the Gospel reveals. Hence arises the pro- 
priety of the many exhortations to faith which the 
Scriptures contain, and which the preaching of the 
word continually enforces ; hence, too, the jDropriety 
of representing faith in Christ as a duty, for the ne- 
glect of which men are justly condemned, while in 
other places it is called the gift of God. For as the 
exhortations to faith are one of the instruments em- 
ployed in producing that change out of which it 
arises, so the want of those moral dispositions with 
which it is connected is a proof of that depravity of 
mind, which, from whatever cause it proceeds, is, 
to every intelligent being who observes it, an ob- 
ject of the highest moral disapprobation. 

As the Greek word rendered faith, 'xiang, is a 
general term, denoting in its primary meaning 
persuasion, or credit given to testimony, and ad- 
mitting of various applications, it is not always 
used in Scripture in that precise and full sense 
which has now been stated. Divines are accus- 
tomed to enumerate four kinds of faith. The 
faith of miracles, or that persuasion of the power 
of their master, and that immediate impulse which 
enabled many of the first Christians to perform, in 
his name, works far exceeding human strength ; 
a kind of faith, which is expressly declared in 
Scripture to have no natural connexion with 



moral qualifications, and to give no assurance of 
salvation. " Though I have all faith," says Paul, 
" so that I could remove mountains, and have not 
charity, I am nothing."* Historical faith, or 
the assent given to truths, the evidence of which 
the understanding is unable to resist. So it is 
said, that " the devils believe and tremble ;"f 
and it is conceived that a man may be able to 
give the most distinct exposition of the arguments 
for Christianity, and the most satisfying solution 
of every objection, while in his will and affections 
he is an enemy to the cross of Christ. Tempo- 
rary faith, or those emotions of admiration, joy, 
and gratitude, and those purposes of obedience 
which are excited by the counsels or promises of 
Scripture, or by particular exhibitions of the grace 
of the Gospel. Of this kind is the faith describ- 
ed by our Lord in one part of his exposition of 
the parable of the sower ; the faith of many who 
followed him, of whom it is said at some times that 
they believed, although their conduct discovers 
that they retained all their evil passions ; and the 
faith of a great part of the hearers of the Gospel, 
who are not wholly unmoved by the calls which 
they receive, because the sentiments of human 
nature are not obliterated from their breasts, and 
yet upon whose conduct these calls do not appear 
to have any abiding influence. Saving faith, which 
is considered by the Arminians as distinguished 
from temporary faith only by its duration. Faith, 
according to their system, originates in the fa- 
vourable reception which the mind gives to the 

* 1 Cor. xiii. 2. t James ii. 19- 


grace of God. When it is lost by a change upon 
the character of him in whom it was begun, it 
appears to be temporary ; when it continues dur- 
ing the whole of his life, it appears to be saving. 
But the Calvinists are led by their principles to 
consider saving faith as of a different species from 
that which is temporary ; as originating in the 
operation of the Spirit of God upon those in whom 
he carries his purpose into execution ; as a prin- 
ciple which cannot be lost, and whose fruit en- 
dures to everlasting life. As it presupposes know- 
ledge and assent to the revelation of the Gospel, 
it has a respect to all the parts of that revelation ; 
and as it implies a firm reliance upon the pro- 
mises of God in general, it has a special regard 
to that declaration which is characteristical of the 
Gospel, that Jesus Christ came into the world to 
save sinners. " This saying," every one that be- 
lieves in Christ to the saving of his soul accounts 
" faithful," i. e. deserving credit, " and worthy of 
all acceptation,*' i. e. deserving to be cordially 
and thankfully embraced. The acceptance of this 
saying has been often expressed by the following 
phrases, all of which derive some countenance 
from Scripture ; resting upon Christ, laying hold 
of him, flying for refuge to him, coming to him, 
trusting in him, receiving him. From the poverty 
of language, all these expressions are figurative, 
and consequently liable to abuse. But provided 
the figure contained in them be not tortured, and 
provided it be always remembered in the use of 
them that faith in Christ does not omit any part of 
the revelation concerning him, but embraces his 


whole character, they may serve to mark with sig- 
nificancy and precision that state of mind, and 
those sentiments which are the first fruit of the 
operation of the Spirit of God in the conversion of 
a sinner. 


CHAP. 11. 


Upon the condition of those in whom the opera- 
tion of the Spirit produces saving faith, there is a 
change which in Scripture is called justification ; 
and that notion of justification by faith which 
arises out of the Catholic opinion concerning the 
nature of the remedy, and the Calvinistic tenets 
concerning the extent and the application of it, 
may be thus shortly stated. 

The sufferings of the Lord Jesus were endured 
in the stead of those whom God from eternity de- 
creed to bring to salvation ; their sins were im- 
puted to him as their substitute, and he bore them 
in his body on the tree. In all that he suffered 
and did there was a merit, which the apostle, Rom. 
V. 1 8, calls sv dixaiMfj^u, one righteousness, and upon 
account of which he says, 1 Cor. i. 30, x^/grog lyzm^n 
rifitv duaioem. When those for whom Christ suffer- 
ed believe on him, this righteousness is imputed to 
them, ^. e. counted as theirs in the judgment of 
God. Considered in themselves they are guilty 
and deserve to suffer, but by means of the imputa- 
tion of this righteousness they are completely ac- 
quitted from the punishment due to their sins, be- 

VOL. 111. P 


cause it was endured for them hy the Lord Jesus, 
and they acquire a right to eternal life, because it 
was purchased for them by his obedience. Ac- 
cording to the notion now stated justification is 
purely a forensic act, i. e. the act of a judge sitting 
in the forum, the place of judgment, in which the 
supreme ruler and judge, who is accountable to 
none, and who alone knows the manner in which 
the ends of his universal government can best be 
attained, reckons that which was done by the sub- 
stitute in the same manner as if it had been done 
by those who believe in the substitute ; and not 
upon account of any thing done by them, but 
purely upon account of this gracious method of 
reckoning, grants them the full remission of their 
sins. In this forensic sense of the word we un- 
derstand the apostle to say, Rom. iii. 26, that God 
is " the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus ;" 
and Rom. iv. 5, that " to him that worketh not, 
but believeth on him that jvistifieth the ungodly, his 
faith is counted for righteousness," or as in the 6th 
verse, " God imputeth," reckoneth to him, " right- 
eousness without works." 

This is the great doctrine of justification by faith, 
which was preached by all the first reformers, which 
they thought they derived from Scripture, and which 
they opposed with zeal and with success to the fol- 
lowing tenets of the church of Rome, upon which a 
great part of the corruptions of that church appear- 
ed to them to rest. 

In the doctrine of the church of Rome justification 
was considered not as a forensic act, altering the 
condition of those who believe, but as an infusion of 
righteousness into their souls, making them inter- 


nally and personally just. It was in this way equi- 
valent to what we call sanctification ; and two things, 
which we consider as connected by an indissoluble 
bond, yet as totally distinct from one another, were 
confounded. By this confusion the remission of sins 
was understood to comprehend taking away the stain 
as well as the guilt of sin ; and the merit of the suf- 
ferings and obedience of Christ was, in this sense, 
understood to be imputed or communicated to those 
who believe that by the merciful appointment of God, 
it procured that grace which renewed their hearts 
and made them conformable to the image of Christ ; 
so that his righteousness was only the remote cause 
of their acceptance with God, but the immediate 
cause was their personal righteousness, or that like- 
ness to him which is obtained through his media- 

Further, while the reformers considered all sins 
that were past as completely forgiven upon account 
of the satisfaction of Christ, the church of Rome, 
which considered remission as grounded upon a re- 
moval of the pollution of sin, thought that a part of 
the punishment remains to be endured by the sin- 
ner ; that the satisfaction of Christ, which alone is 
sufficient to deliver from future and eternal punish- 
ment those who are justified, is applied to their souls 
and rendered effectual for that purpose by the cala- 
mities which God sends them in this life, by the pe- 
nances to which they submit, or by the torments en- 
dured in that intermediate state, where they are sup- 
posed to undergo a purification before they enter in- 
to heaven. All acts of mortification and every kind 
of affliction were thus regarded as a satisfaction of- 
fered on our part to the justice of God, deriving in- 


deed all its acceptableness in the sight of God from 
what Christ has done, but concurring with the merits 
of Christ in our justification. 

From the place assigned to personal righteousness, 
and to personal suffering in our justification, flowed 
the grossest corruptions in the church of Rome. The 
first reformers, therefore, regarding these corruptions 
with indignation, wisely and boldly attacked them 
in their principle, by dwelling upon the doctrine of 
justification by faith. According to this doctrine, 
the righteousness of Christ is the only impulsive or 
meritorious cause of our being justified with God ; 
faith is only the instrument by which this righte- 
ousness is applied to us so as to be counted as ours; 
and the effect of this imputation is a complete re- 
mission of the punishment, as well as of the guilt, of 
sin ; so that all the calamities, which they who are 
justified may be called to suffer, are fatherly chastise- 
ments, expressions of love, a salutary discipline mi- 
nistering to their improvement, but in no respect a 
punishment or a satisfaction for sin. 

Many of the sects into which the Protestants were 
afterwards divided, not being called immediately to 
combat the errors of popery, did not see the necessity 
of adhering to all the parts of this doctrine of the first 
reformers, and were led by the general principles of 
the systems which they adopted to depart from it 
more or less. The Socinians, who consider the Gos- 
pel merely as a declaration of the mercy of God, a 
lesson of righteousness, and a promise of eternal life, 
exclude the satisfaction of Christ altogether ; and 
finding no necessity and no place for the imputation 
of his righteousness, they hold that, as all who re- 
pent are forgiven, so Christians are said to be justi- 


fied by faith, or a reliance upon the promise which 
God has made to them through Christ, because this 
faith is the principle of that evangelical obedience 
which, through the essential goodness of God, will 
be crowned with eternal life. The Arminians, who 
retain the doctrine of the atonement, admit that the 
righteousness of Christ imputed to us is the only me- 
I'itorious cause of our justification. But as this right- 
eousness is imputed only to those who believe, and 
as faith, according to the Arminians, is the fruit of 
that favourable reception which the mind of him who 
believes is naturally disposed to give to the grace of 
God, faith is considered by them not merely as an 
instrument by which the righteousness of Christ is 
applied, but as an act implying the possession of that 
honesty of heart, and those good dispositions which, 
for the sake of Christ, are counted to us as righte- 
ousness. The Roman Catholics and the Arminians 
in this point agree ; both ascribing to faith, not the 
merit of our justification, but that intrinsic value 
which is a preparation and predisposition for our be- 
ing justified. They said, in the language of the 
schools, Jidemjustificare dispositive; that a man, by 
having faith^ sues voluntatis motu prceparari et dis^ 
poni ad justificationis gratiam consequendam. The 
Calvinists, on the other hand, considering all those 
dispositions, which go along with faith, as originat- 
ing in the grace which is conferred by God, do not 
ascribe to them any co-operation with that grace in 
the act of justification; but as they read in Scrip-. 

ture that we are justified not ha. rnv mcnv, but dia inffrsajg, 

sK ^(fTsuc, SO they say that faith justifies organice^ ifi- 
strumentaliter ; and it appears to them that the 
very reason why our justification is ascribed to faith, 


and not to other Christian virtues, is, that while o- 
bedience, charity, and repentance, have an intrinsic 
merit, something independent of any object foreign 
to themselves, which might be regarded as the ground 
of our acceptance, faith in Christ, by its very nature, 
looks beyond itself, and instead of presenting any 
thing of which the person who believes can boast, 
implies a reliance upon the merit of another : and 
this they understand to be the meaning of that ex- 
pression of the Apostle, Rom. iv. 16, " It is of faith, 
that it might be by grace." 

In the first paragraph of the eleventh chapter of 
the Confession of Faith, the doctrine of justification 
by faith is anxiously discriminated from all the errors 
which I have enumerated. And in the fourth para- 
graph of that chapter there is an allusion to an in- 
accurate expression which occurs in the writings of 
some who held this doctrine. They said that men 
were justified from eternity ; thus confounding the 
decree of election, which entered into the eternal 
counsels of the Almighty, with that part of the exe- 
cution of the decree which we mean by the act of 
justification ; an act which pre-supposes that faith 
which is the fruit of the Spirit, and therefore does 
not take place until faith be produced. 

There is another mode of expression which is 
not a mere inaccuracy, but proceeds upon a differ- 
ent view of the whole subject. It is said by the 
Roman Catholics, and by many Protestants, that 
no man is completely justified till the last day, 
when he is delivered from all the effects of sin, 
and put in possession of eternal life. But as the 
Scripture often speaks of men being justified prior 
to that day, a distinction is made between first and 


second justificatioii. The Roman Catholics mean 
by first justification, the infusion of personal right- 
eousness by the Spirit of God into the soul : by 
second justification, the reward conferred at the 
last day upon the good works which flowed from 
this infusion. Among the Protestants the distinc- 
tion between first and second justification was men- 
tioned by some of the followers of Socinus, and 
has been ably and fully elucidated in a long essay 
prefixed to Taylor's Commentary on the Epistle 
to the Romans, entitled, A Key to the Apostolic 
Writings. By first justification Taylor understands 
the admission of the Gentile nations by the pub- 
lication of the Gospel into the church of God, in 
which they receive the promise of pardon through 
the blood of Christ, the hope of eternal life, and 
all the privileges which belong to the people of 
God : by second, or final justification, he under- 
stands our being actually qualified for, and put in 
possession of eternal life, after we have duly im- 
proved our first justification, or Christian privileges, 
by a patient continuance in well-doing to the end. 
According to this distinction, which is generally 
adopted by those members of the church of Eng- 
land who lean to Arminianism, justification is di- 
vided into two parts, the one of which is an act of 
grace common to all that hear the Gospel, and the 
other is an exercise of distributive justice at the last 
day ; and the connexion between the two parts is so 
far from being infallible, that it depends entirely up- 
on the exercise of our free will, and is dissolved with 
regard to many by their abuse of those privileges 
which others improve. But the Calvinists consider 
themselves as warranted by the whole strain of Scrip- 


ture,to hold that the complete remission of all his past 
sins, implied in the justification of a sinner, is accom- 
panied with a security that, by the same grace through 
which he was justified, he shall finally be saved. In 
the Calvinistic scheme, therefore, justification does 
not consist of two parts that may be disjoined, but is 
one act of God peculiar to the elect, which extends 
its benefits through the whole time of their abode 
upon earth, and is the ground of eternal life being 
adjudged to them at the last day. 

To the implicit faith required in the church of 
Rome, and to the delusions of fanaticism, we have 
opposed this principle, that knowledge is essential to 
the faith by which we are justified. From this 
principle it follows, that none can be saved to whom 
the knowledge of Christ is not conveyed : and hence 
a question occurs concerning those men whose names 
are often mentioned in Scripture with honour, but 
who lived before our Saviour was born. We can 
have no doubt that they pleased God upon earth, and 
that they now dwell with him in heaven : but it is 
asked whether they had the means of attaining that 
knowledge, without which men cannot be justified 
by faith in Christ. The Socinians, who depreciate 
the services, the promises, and the precepts of the 
Old Testament, that they may find a marked supe- 
riority in the Gospel, without having recourse to the 
doctrine of atonement, consider the saints under the 
Old Testament as possessing advantages very little 
superior to those which good men enjoy under any 
other dispensation, as oppressed with a burdensome 
ritual, which did not appear to them to have any 
spiritual meaning, as having no encouragement to 
I'egard as their Saviour that prophet whom their sa- 


cred books foretold, and as attaining to eternal life, 
not through faith in him, but merely through the 
goodness of God. As the harmony of the divine 
works leads us to expect an intimate connexion be- 
tween the two dispensations of religion, it may be 
presumed a priori, that there is some defect in this 
view of the condition of these men : and as, in va- 
rious departments of the study of theology, there 
are striking analogies between the preparatory dis- 
pensation and that which was its completion, it can 
hardly be supposed that that method of deliverance 
from sin, which constitutes the character of the lat- 
ter, was wholly unknown to those who were distin- 
guished from the rest of the world by living under 
the former. It is true that neither the moral, nor 
the ceremonial, nor the judicial law, was of itself 
sufficient to lay a foundation for faith in Christ. But 
it is to be remembered that the dispensation, which 
embraced these three parts, was given to the poste- 
rity of that patriarch in whose family the promise 
of a deliverer was to descend ; that it intervened be- 
tween the promise and the fulfilment ; that its sub- 
serviency to the fulfilment was explained by a suc- 
cession of prophets, whose w^ords cherished the hope 
of a deliverer, and unfolded the spiritual meaning 
of all the preparation that was made for his com- 
ing ; and that many of the ceremonies which were 
continually repeated, while they represented the pol- 
lution and the guilt of sin, could not appear to any 
enlightened mind sufficient to remove them. Accord- 
ingly, we learn from various expressions in Scrip- 
ture, that there were in all ages of the Jewish church 
just and devout men, who " waited for the consola- 
tion of Israel," who looked through the figures, that 


were for the time then present, to him who is the 
end of the law, who expected forgiveness of those 
breaches of the moral law, which they daily con- 
fessed, through the virtue of the new covenant that 
was announced to them, and who thus lived by the 
faith of a Saviour to come. John viii. 56. Rom. 
iii. 30. 1 Cor. x. 4. Gal. iii. 8, 9, 14. Luke ii. 
25, 38. 

To all who were thus enabled to look forward to 
Christ he was " the Lord their righteousness." 
For the blood of the Lamb, who was fore-ordained 
before the foundation of the world, extends its effi- 
cacy to the ages that are past, as well as to those 
that are to come ; and through him all that lived 
by faith under the Old Testament obtained full re- 
mission of sins, and a right to eternal life, of which 
they were put in possession immediately after death. 
With regard to them, therefore, our doctrine is thus 
expressed in the Confession of Faith ; the means by 
which the covenant of grace was administered in 
the time of the law, " were for that time sufficient 
and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, 
to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the 
promised Messiah ; there are not two covenants of 
grace diifering in substance, but one and the same 
under various dispensations ; the justification of 
believers under the Old Testament was in all re- 
spects one and the same with the justification of be- 
lievers under the New Testament."* 

With regard to those in ancient times who knew 
nothing of the Jewish law, and those in modern 
times to whom the Gospel has not been published, 

* Confession of Faiths vii. 5, 6 ; xi. 6. 


we feel a greater difficulty, at least we do not find 
ourselves so far enabled by Scripture to explain in 
what manner they can be saved. For although it 
is impossible that they could attain by any ordinary 
means that knowledge which is essential to faith in 
Christ, yet it is contrary to what we account the 
fundamental principles of Christianity, to believe 
that their actions, however useful to society, and 
however highly esteemed by men, possessed such a 
degree of perfection as to entitle them to acceptance 
with God. But it does not necessarily follow from 
the principles which we hold, that all such persons 
are finally condemned, because we can conceive that 
God may in some extraordinary manner convey to 
the souls of those who are to be saved that knowledge 
which he did not afford them the outward means of 
acquiring : and we are disposed to consider Job as 
an instance of this kind presented to us in Scripture ; 
a man who appears to have had no acquaintance 
with the Mosaic dispensation, and yet who attained 
such an eminence of virtue as is honoured with the 
divine approbation, and who discovers such an as- 
sured hope of a final deliverance from all the evils 
of sin, as implies that his soul was illuminated with 
more than human knowledge. '^' There are number- 
less ways in which the Father of spirits may extend 
the knowledge of Christ to all those whose names 
enter into the decree of election, whatever be the 
circumstances in which they are placed ; and we 
need not be surprised that the Scriptures give no 
aid to our conjectures as to the time or the manner 
of their illumination. For it may be observed in 
general, that while we are fully instructed in every 

* Job xix. 23—27. Confession of Faith, x. 3. 


thing which can serve to direct our conduct, we are 
kept in the dark as to every thing that may- 
serve only to gratify our curiosity ; and with 
regard to this particular point, it appears that the 
Scriptures give us no light for this reason, that 
the condition and the fate of persons, who are 
not favoured with the outward means of knowing 
Christ, form no rule to us who enjoy them. What- 
ever extraordinary revelation the mercy of God may 
vouchsafe to men in a different situation, our ad- 
vantages serve at once to point out our duty, and 
to set bounds to our expectations ; and all that con- 
cerns our everlasting peace is couched in the spirit 
of those significant words, which our Lord puts in- 
to the mouth of Abraham as an answer to the re- 
quest of the rich man, who asked that Lazarus might 
be sent from the other world to his father s house 
to testify to his five brethren ; " they have Moses 
and the prophets, let them hear them." 

It is obvious, from the view which has been given 
of the faith by which we are justified, that the doc- 
trine of the perseverance of the saints necessarily re- 
sults from the characteristical features of the Cal- 
vinistic system. * All the arguments for the doc- 
trine, and all the answers to the objections against 
it which are to be found in the ordinary systems, 
are only the application of principles which have al- 
ready been stated ; and the Arminian and Calvinis- 
tic exposition of the multitude of texts, which have 
been quoted in the discussion of this question, turns 
upon distinctions and general views which have fre- 
quently occurred to us. For this reason, instead of 
entering minutely into a question which would only 

* Confession of Faith, xvii. 1. 


detain us with unnecessary repetitions, I shall pass 
on to other questions, where the application of ge- 
neral principles is less obvious. 

If all those who are justified be effectually pre- 
served by the Spirit of God, so that they cannot fall 
from a state of grace, their final salvation, being cer- 
tain, is an object of knowledge. It is known to God, 
and it may be known by themselves. Accordingly, 
we meet in Scripture with such expressions as the 
following : " We know that we have passed from 
death unto life. * I know whom I have believed, 
and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which 
I have committed unto him against that day. I have 
fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I 
have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 
for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the 
righteous judge shall give me at that day."f These, 
and other expressions of the same kind, imply that 
the apostle had a knowledge of his being to be 
saved. It follows, consequently, that a similar 
knowledge may be attained by other Christians. 
This is called, in theological language, an assurance 
of grace and salvation.:]: 

The church of Rome deny that it is possible for 
any man in a state of trial to attain this assurance ; 
and they build some of the most gainful parts of 
their traffic upon that perpetual doubt and uncer- 
tainty with regard to our final condition, which they 
profess in some degree to remove by the prayers of 
the church, the merits of saints and martyrs, and 
the absolution which priests pronounce in the name 
of God. 

* 1 John iii. 14. t 2 Tim. i. 12 ; iv. 7, 8. 

X Confession of Faith, xviii. 2. 


The Arminians, who do not ascribe the salvation 
of men to the infallible effectual operation of the 
Spirit of God, but consider it as at all times suspended 
upon the co-operation of the human will, do not suj)- 
pose it possible for any man to attain a greater cer- 
tainty of salvation than this, that if he persist in 
faith he shall be saved. It is the character of fana- 
ticism to resolve this assurance into an impression 
immediately made by the Spirit of God upon the 
mind, overpowering the reason of man, and inde- 
pendent of his exertions. But the Calvinists con- 
ceive that an assurance with regard to his final con- 
dition, very far beyond conjecture or probable con- 
clusion, may be attained by a Christian without any 
special revelation, in a manner consistent with the 
full exercise of his rational powers. In forming this 
conception, they are accustomed to distinguish be- 
tween the direct and the reflex act of faith. By the 
direct act of faith they mean that cordial acceptance 
of the method of deliverance proposed in the Gos- 
pel, by which a believer rests in the merits of Christ 
for salvation. By the reflex act of faith they mean 
the consciousness of the direct act, the knowledge 
which he has that he believes ; by which conscious- 
ness he is enabled to reason in this manner : the 
Scripture declares that whosoever believes in Christ 
shall obtain everlasting life ; but I know that I be- 
lieve in Christ, therefore I know that I shall obtain 
through him everlasting life. 

This reflex act of faith, being subsequent to the 
direct act, is not essential to it ; in other words, a 
person may believe in Christ, and may be justified 
by his faith, before he attain the assurance of his be- 
ing in a justified state. In some this assurance is 


much weaker than in others ; in all it is liable to be 
overcast and shaken by bodily infirmity, by their 
own negligence, by affliction, by temptation, by that 
visitation of God which the Scriptures call his hiding 
his face from his people, and by occasional trans- 
gression ; and in all it is accompanied with watch- 
fulness, with fear of offending, and with a diligent use 
of the various instruments which contribute to the 
preservation of human integrity. But as there are 
certain fruits which always proceed from genuine 
faith, these fruits afford an evidence of its being im- 
planted in the soul ; and this evidence is accompa- 
nied with what the Scripture calls the witness of the 
Spirit, " who is the earnest of our inheritance," be- 
cause as the fruits of righteousness are the effect of 
his operation, he bears witness with the spirit of all 
who are filled with these fruits, that they are the 
children of God.* The consciousness of their pos- 
sessing faith is the witness of their own spirit : the 
presence of his fruits is his witness ; and the two 
conspire in producing that peace with God and joy 
in the Holy Ghost, of which the Scriptures often 
speak as a portion, which in value " passeth all un- 
derstanding," and which, to all that attain it, is the 
foretaste and the beginning of heaven in their souls. 

* Rom. viii. 16. Sherlock's Sermon on the text. 




The view given in the preceding chapter of the 
Calvinistic doctrine with regard to the assurance of 
grace and salvation, proceeds upon the supposition 
that there are certain fruits of the operation of the 
Spirit of God which always accompany genuine 
faith; in other words, that there is an inseparable 
connexion between justification and sanctification. 
This connexion, although, in respect of practice, 
the most important doctrine in theology, is not ob- 
vious at first sight ; it has been overlooked or ne- 
glected by several sects of Christians ; and therefore 
it requires to be fully illustrated in this place. 

Although it is the fundamental and characteristi- 
cal doctrine of the Gospel that we are justified by 
faith, yet a great deal more than that word seems to 
imply is required of Christians. The Epistles of 
Paul, in which the doctrine of justification by faith 
is unfolded and established, like all the other parts 
of Scripture, are full of precepts commanding us to 
repent of our past sins, to abstain from all appear- 
ance of evil, to abound in the work of the Lord. 
While we read that " to them who by patient con- 
tinuance in well-doing seek for glory, honour, and 
immortality, God will render eternal life," we read 


also that the wrath of God, which is revealed in the 
Gospel against all unrighteousness of men, will at 
length be executed upon every soul of man that do- 
eth evil, and that without holiness no man shall see 
the Lord.* The precepts contained in the discourses 
of our Lord, and the writings of his apostles, are 
the revealed will of God prescribing to Christians 
their duty. The duty which they delineate is what 
our reason and our heart approve ; and it is so agree- 
able to all our conceptions of the nature and the go- 
vernment of God, that the Gospel, from the manner 
in which it delivers and enforces this duty, derives 
the high commendation of being the most effectual 
and the most refined system of morality which 
ever appeared. But where is the connexion, it 
is asked, between this system of morality and the 
doctrine which has been explained ? If we are justi- 
fied by faith alone, and if justification include there- 
mission of sins and a right to eternal life, where shall 
we find a place for the precepts of the Gospel ? And 
how can that obedience, which is certainly due to 
the will of our Creator, enter into a system of theo- 
logy, which excludes works from having any share 
in our justification? The principles, upon which the 
Calvinistic system rests, appear to all who under- 
stand them to furnish a satisfying answer to these 

If faith were a single act, by performing which at 
one particular time we were justified, or if it were a 
solitary quality infused into the soul, and unconnect- 
ed with the general character, there would be much 
diflficulty in reconciling the necessity of obedience 

* Horn, I IS ; ii. 6— p. Hob. xii. 14. 


with the doctrine of justification by faith. But we 
have seen that faith arises from that change which 
the Spirit of God produces, according to the Calvinists 
by an efficacious operation, according to the Armi- 
nians by moral suasion, upon all those to whom the 
remedy is applied. Now this change is the begin- 
ning of sanctification, by introducing the principles 
of a new life, without which we cannot hate sin and 
follow after righteousness. For although many cir- 
cumstances may induce men to assume the outward 
appearance of sanctity, nothing but the influence of 
that Spirit, which produces faith, can so effectually 
overcome the corruption of human nature as to pro- 
duce that uniformity of sentiment, and purpose, and 
conduct, those habits of virtue, and that continual 
progress in goodness, which enter into the notion of 
sanctification. And thus justification, a forensic act 
which acquits those who believe from the guilt of 
sin, and sanctification, an inward change, by which 
the soul is delivered from the stain of sin, and gra- 
dually recovers its native purity and dignity, al- 
though distinct from one another, are inseparably 
joined, because the faith by which we are justified 
has its origin and principle in the change by which 
we are sanctified. Accordingly faith was formerly 
found in its nature to be connected Avitli many good 
dispositions ; and although we do not allow that 
these dispositions are in any respect the cause of our 
justification, or that they give faith any degree of 
merit in the sight of God, still we cannot deny that 
the connexion between them and faith is of such a 
kindj as renders it impossible for any person to have 
saving faith who is devoid of these dispositions. It 
is plain also, that as faith implies good dispositions, 


SO it brings along with it the strongest incentives to 
obedience. The different parts of the revelation of 
the Gospel are fitted by their nature to have an in- 
fluence upon the most perverse mind which assents 
to the truth of the revelation : but to a mind renew- 
ed by the grace of God this influence becomes com- 
manding. A man who receives with joy and grati- 
tude the discoveries of divine love made in the Gos- 
pel, who has an impression of the divine authority 
of its precepts, who relies on the promises of God, 
and who trembles at his threatenings, derives from 
faith, motives to obedience the most powerful and 
interesting ; and his mind, restored by the influence 
of the Spirit to the state in which objects, appearing 
as they are, produce their full and proper effect, is 
formed to be led by these motives. To him, there- 
fore, the moral law, originally written upon the heart, 
afterwards delivered to the children of Israel from 
Mount Sinai, and republished in the precepts of the 
Gospel, approves itself as reasonable and just and 
good ; obedience to it becomes delightful ; the domi- 
nion of sin is broken : the libertv of the children of 
God is a matter of experience ; so that, according to 
the significant language used by Paul, " being made 
free from sin, and become the servant of God, he has 
his fruit unto holiness, and obeys from the heart 
that form of doctrine which was delivered him."* 

From this intimate connexion between justifica- 
tion and sanctification, there result the following 
conclusions, which it is of infinite importance for all 
the ministers of the religion of Jesus clearly to ap-» 
prehend, and firmly to retain. 

1. We observe with what propriety and signifi-^ 

* Rom. vi. Yly9.%, 


cancy it is said that good works are the fruits and 
evidences of a true and lively faith. Although they 
follow after justification, they are the marks by which 
we know that we are in a justified state ; there can 
be no well-grounded assurance of grace and salva- 
tion to any person who is destitute of these marks ; 
and therefore the great business of Christians, ac- 
cording to the direction of Peter, is " to give all 
diligence to make their calling and election sure," 
/. e, to attain the assurance of their being elected, by 
f' adding to their faith" those things in which the 
elect are called to abound.* 

2. We observe that a quaint phrase, which often 
occurs in theological writings, Jides sola justificat, 
sed non quce est solai\ is an attempt to express 
shortly and pointedly a distinction, which, when 
properly understood, enables us to reconcile the 
apostles Paul and James. Paul says, " that a man 
is justified by faith without the deeds of the law :":|: 
James says, " that by works a man is justified, and 
not by faith only."§ The two declarations appear 
to be inconsistent ; but a little attention to the train 
of argument removes the apparent contradiction. 
Paul is arguing against persons who said that jus- 
tification came by the law ; and the works of the 
law mean, in his argument, not only the observance 
of the ceremonial law, but that measure of obedi- 
ence to the moral law which any person, by the 
powers of human nature in its present state, is able 
to yield. This measure being always imperfect, 
and yielded by those who, as sinners, are under a 
sentence of condemnation, cannot justify ; and there- 

* 2 IV'ter i, 5— 11. t C.^iifcv-sioii of Faith, xi. '2. 

:;: Romans iii. i^8. § Jame^s ii. 24. 


fore a man is justified only by that faith which ac- 
cepts the imputation of the obedience of another. 
But this faith is represented by the apostle as work- 
ing by love ; and his writings not only abound 
with precepts addressed to those who believe, but 
are very much employed in illustrating the connex- 
ion between faith and obedience to these precepts. 
Although, therefore, Paul excludes all works done 
before justification from having any influence in 
bringing us into that state, yet the faith, to which 
he ascribes our justification, is understood and ex- 
plained by him to be accompanied with every Christ- 
ian grace, and productive of good works. But the 
faith of which James speaks is described as a faith 
without works, which is dead being alone ; a faith 
which the devils have ; for he says that " they also 
believe and tremble ;" and the apostle, combating 
probably some dangerous practical error of his time, 
declares that this kind of faith is of none avail ; be- 
cause the faith by which a person is justified must 
be shown and made perfect by works. And thus 
the two apostles mean the same thing. Although 
each states the subject in the light which his par- 
ticular argument requires, yet their writings sug- 
gest a distinction by which they are reconciled ; a 
distinction, to which we are obliged to have recourse 
in explaining other parts of Scripture,* between 
that faith, which, being alone, does not save us, 
and that faith fruitful in every virtue, by which we 
are justified. 

3. We observe that the soundest Calvinists may 
say, without hesitation, that good works are neces- 

* Acts xvi. 30, 31. John xii. 42, 43. 


sary to salvation. The first reformers, whose great 
object was to establish, in opposition to the church 
of Rome, the doctrine of justification by faith, were 
afraid to adopt an expression which might seem to 
give countenance to the Popish doctrine of the merit 
of good works. Melancthon, indeed, maintained 
that they were necessary : but as he was known to 
have departed in various points from the doctrine 
held by Luther, this expression gave offence to 
many who adhered to that doctrine. Amsdorf, in 
the year 1552, went so far as to declare that good 
works were an impediment to salvation. Few are 
disposed to follow Amsdorf ; but amongst unlearned 
people, who have been educated with rigid ideas of 
Calvinism, there exists a general prejudice against 
saying that good works are necessary. It is pro- 
per, therefore, to understand clearly that, while this 
expression may be misinterpreted, as if it implied that 
some good dispositions or good actions are required 
previous to justification, and are the cause of our 
being justified, there is a sound sense in which 
the whole strain of Scripture and the amount of 
the principles of Calvinism warrant us to say, that 
good works are essential to salvation ; for none can 
be saved who have not that character which is pro- 
duced by the Spirit of God in all that are justified, 
and none have that character in whom these une- 
quivocal fruits of it do not appear. 

4. We learn to guard against the errors of those 
who have received the names of Solifidians, Anti- 
nomians, and fratres liberi spiritus. The Solifi- 
dians probably meant nothing more than to exclude 
the merit of works in our justification. But their 
doctrine has often been so expressed, both in former 


times and in the present day, as to give countenance 
to an opinion that nothing more than faith is requir- 
ed of a Christian, and that he is saved by the solitary 
act of resting upon Christ. The Antinomians de- 
rive their name from appearing to institute an op- 
position between the moral law and the Gospel. 
There was a monstrous form in which Antinomian- 
ism appeared both before and after the Reformation, 
and which was revived in Britain amidst the extra- 
vagancies of the seventeenth century. It represent- 
ed the elect as absolved from the obligation of the 
moral law, as at liberty to indulge their appetites 
without restraint, and to perform what actions they 
pleased without contracting any guilt, because, being 
in a justified state, it was impossible that any thing 
done by them could be displeasing to God. This 
horrible doctrine, from which the fr aires liheri spi- 
ritus, in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, derived 
their name, calls for the correction of the civil ma- 
gistrate rather than for an answer by argument : 
and although this doctrine has been avowed by 
some who profess to hold the Calvinistic system of 
predestination, yet he must have a very false and 
imperfect conception of that system who cannot rea- 
dily show how it may be separated from so gross an 

There is a more temperate form of Antinomian- 
ism, according to which it is not pretended that men 
are absolved from the obligation of the moral law ; 
but it is said that obedience to its precepts being 
purely the effect of the irresistible grace of God,— 
an effect which his grace will infallibly produce in 
the elect,, and which no human means can produce 
in any others, the inculcating these precepts in di^ 


courses to the people is iinnecessaiy, and may be 
hurtful, by inspiring their minds with a false opi- 
nion that something may be done by them, whereas 
the unregenerate can do nothing, and God does every 
thing in the elect. The only business, therefore, of 
preaching, according to this system, is to exhibit the 
condition of men by nature, and to proclaim the 
riches of the divine love in the whole economy of 
the Gospel ; leaving sinners to feel that conviction 
of guilt and misery which will be thus excited in 
their breasts, and saints to follow the operations of 
the grace communicated to them, and of the senti- 
ments of gratitude and love which the display of 
that grace may cherish. This more temperate form 
of Antinomianism, which has at different periods 
pervaded all the Reformed churches, and which gave 
their character to the greater part of British ser- 
mons during the seventeenth century, was ably com- 
bated in England by Bishop Stillingfleet and Dr. 
Williams. The first example of a kind of preaching, 
proceeding upon different principles, was set by the 
profound and learned Dr. Barrow, in sermons 
abounding with excellent matter, but written in a 
rugged obscure style, and affecting a multiplicity of 
divisions more fitted to perplex and fatigue the me- 
mory, than to assist the comprehension of the whole 
subject. His matter was exhibited in a more popu- 
lar form by the copious Dr. Tillotson, who, although 
to us he appears diffuse and verbose, deserves to be 
ranked very high in the class of preachers, because, 
while he attacked the Antinomians by argument, he 
was the first who gave amenity and interest to a 
species of public discourses opposite to that which 
he condemned in them. The example was followed 


and improved by a succession of English divines ; 
early in the last century it found its way into Scot- 
land ; and the gradual extension of moral science, 
the refinement of taste, and an enlarged acquaintance 
with life and manners, have produced amongst us 
a style of preaching totally different from that which 
our forefathers practised. With certain descriptions 
of people there still remains so much of Antinomian 
principles as to prodvice a predilection for what they 
call evangelical, or Gospel preaching, as opposed to 
what they call moral or legal preaching. But this dis- 
tinction is losing its hold of the minds of the people 
in many parts of Scotland ; and although discourses 
from the pulpit, approaching to the character of mo- 
ral essays, are universally and justly disliked, there 
is a method of preaching morality which is far from 
being generally unpopular. 

It may be thought, however, that the disrepute 
into which Antinomian preaching has begun to fall, 
is owing to a departure from Calvinism ; and there 
ajipears to be the more reason for this suspicion, that 
some of the sects amongst whom that kind of preach- 
ing continues to prevail, profess the strictest adher- 
ence to Calvinism, that Tillotson and other early 
adversaries of Antinomianism were avowed Armi- 
nians, and that ail the peculiar tenets of the Armi- 
uians lead them to press obedience, and to dwell more 
upon the duties than upon the doctrines of religion. 
But the principles which have been explained leave 
no room to suppose, that Calvinism is inconsistent 
with rational practical preaching; and as it is most 
desirable that the place which the Calvinistic system 
allows for this kind of preaching should be distinct- 
ly understood, I shall suggest, as the last conclusion 


which may be drawn from the view given of the 
connexion between justification and sanctification, 

5. That as the Scriptures abound with precepts and 
exhortations, so it is the duty of those who preach 
the Gospel to " affirm constantly this faithful say- 
ing" and to imprint it upon the minds of their peo- 
ple, " that they who have believed in God should be 
careful to maintain good works."* This duty may 
be performed in two ways, both of which ought oc- 
casionally to be employed. One of the peculiar 
doctrines of Christianity may be made the subject of 
discourse ; and, after explaining it, as far as you are 
warranted by Scripture, you may illustrate its in- 
fluence upon practice, — the obligations and the mo- 
tives to holiness which arise from it. Or you may 
make one of the precepts of the Old or New Testa- 
ment, or one of the examples held forth in Scripture, 
your subject ; and, after pointing out the duty en- 
joined by the precept, or the lesson conveyed by the 
example, you may enforce it, by adding to all the 
considerations which reason, and prudence, and ex- 
perience suggest, those most interesting arguments 
which the Gospel affords. In either way you con- 
join evangelical and moral preaching ; you follow 
the example of Christ and his apostles ; and you 
minister most effectually to the instruction of those 
who hear you. If you omit all mention of the doc- 
trines, the motives and the views of the Gospel, you 
become mere moralists ; you neglect the advantages 
which the religion of Christ gives you for laying hold 
of the minds of men ; and you may learn from the 
history of the heathen world, that such discourses, 

* Titus iii. 8. 


however sound in argument, however rich in image- 
ry, however ornate in style, are little fitted to pro- 
mote the reformation of mankind. But if, on the 
other hand, you fail to follow out the doctrines of 
the Gospel to those consequences which are always 
deduced from them in Scripture; if the pictures which 
you present of the corruption of human nature and 
the efficacy of divine grace tend to convey an im- 
pression that all exertions upon our part are unne- 
cessary and unavailing ; and if your discourses give 
any person occasion to think that saving faith may 
exist in the mind of him who continues in sin, you 
not only preach the Gospel in a manner for which 
the Scriptures give you no warrant, and do unspeak- 
able injury to the people by unhinging all their mo- 
ral ideas, but you depart from the principles of that 
system upon which you profess to build such dis- 
courses, and show that you have viewed it only on 
one side, without comprehending the connexion of 
its parts. For, although, in opposition to Pelagian 
and Semi-Pelagian errors, we hold that man is pas- 
sive in his conversion, that the inclination of the soul 
to turn to God is the work of the Spirit, for which 
there are no preparatory dispositions originally and 
naturally belonging to the mind, until it be renewed 
by grace; yet we hold also, that when these dispo- 
sitions are implanted, they seek for exercise as much 
as the propensities which are inseparable from our 
frame ; that when the mind is renewed it delights 
in those employments which are congenial to the 
image after which it is created ; that when our fa- 
culties are emancipated from bondage they use the 
liberty which is restored to them ; that man, instead 
of being passive after his conversion, is directed by 


the Spirit in the exercise of those powers of action 
which he has recovered, and that because " God 
worketh in him both to will and to do of his good 
pleasure, he worketh out his own salvation."* 

To man thus restored the precepts of the word 
of God are addressed. The obedience required of 
him is the obedience of faith, yielded in the strength 
which is given him, proceeding from the motives 
of the Gospel, and relying for acceptance upon the 
grace there exhibited. But all the methods which ac- 
cording to the constitution of his nature may be of use 
in exciting him to this obedience are occasionally em- 
ployed in Scripture. All the springs of action in the 
human breast, gratitude, love, hope, fear, emulation, 
the desire of honour, natural affection, and enlarged 
philanthropy, are there touched ; and from thence 
we derive our example and our warrant for that 
variety in the style of practical preaching, by which 
we may, with the blessing of God, arrest the atten^ 
tion and reach the hearts of our hearers. 

Although, therefore, the ministers of the Gospel 
do not in every sermon lay down a system of theo- 
logy, they are not to be supposed to have departed 
from the " form of sound words ;" for that form 
admits of all the lessons of candour, justice, bene- 
volence, temperance, piety, truth, and virtuous ex- 
ertion ; and of all the modes, historical, descriptive, 
argumentative, or pathetic, in which such lessons 
can be conveyed. Our discourses correspond to the 
design of preaching, when we inculcate these lessons 
in the method which appears to us most effectual 
for calling upon the people " not to receive the 

* Phil. ii. 12, 13. 


grace of God in vain," but " to stir up the gift of 
God which is in them :" and all who improve these 
lessons, so as to abound in the fruits of the Spirit, 
discover that they have felt that divine power, by 
which the disciples of Christ are created unto good 
works, and put forth the strength conveyed to their 
souls by him, " without whom they can do nothing," 
but " through whom they can do all things." 

Fuller's Comparison of Calvijiistic and Socinian Principles as 
to their moral tendency. 




That change of character, which is the effect of the 
operation of the Spirit, and the beginning of sanpti- 
fication, is called conversion, because it turns men 
from the sentiments and habits which enter into 
our view when we speak of human nature as cor- 
rupt, to those sentiments and habits which are pro- 
duced by the Holy Spirit. Hence it follows, that 
sanctification consists of two parts. In considering 
its nature, each of these demands our attention. The 
first part is that which we call repentance. 


Repentance and faith are often conjoined in Scrip- 
ture as necessary for the remission of sins ; they 
originate in the same change of character, and they 
cannot be separated. For as the repentance of sin- 
ners cannot be accepted by the righteous Governor 
of the universe without the righteousness of Christ, 


which by faith is counted as theirs, so their faith is 
not such as gives them an interest in that righteous- 
ness, unless they forsake the sins which upon ac- 
count of it are forgiven. We say, therefore, in the 
words of our Confession of Faith, that " repentance 
unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine where- 
of is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, 
as well as that of faith in Christ."* In preaching 
it, there is frequent occasion to illustrate the follow- 
ing propositions. 1. Repentance unto life proceeds 
upon the revelation made in the Gospel of the mercy 
of God and the mediation of Christ ; because, unless 
with the Socinians we deny the necessity of the 
atonement, we must account the case of every sin- 
ner desperate without that revelation, f 2. Repen- 
tance unto life does not consist merely in a reforma- 
tion of the outward conduct, or an abstinence from 
those open transgressions which subject men to in- 
convenience and reproach ; but it arises out of a 
heart which is renewed, as is intimated by the term 
fiiravoiu, which the sacred writers use to denote it, 
and it implies a hatred of sin ; because, unless with 
the Socinians we deny the corruption of human 
nature, we cannot account a change permanent or 
acceptable, when the principles which produced 
former transgressions remain unsubdued. 3. Re- 
pentance unto life does not rest in feelings of com- 
punction and expressions of sorrow ; because if the 
emotions excited by the recollection of the past are 
founded upon a change of mind, they must be ac- 
companied with a solicitude, and a constant endea- 

* Confession of Faith/ x v. 1. t Psalm cxxx. 3. 


voiir to abstain from those sins which gave thein 

Some of the grossest errors and corruptions of 
the church of Rome respect the doctrine of repen- 
tance. According to the tenets avowed in the stan- 
dards, and sanctioned by the practice of that church, 
repentance consists in three acts ; confession of sins 
to the priest ; contrition, or attrition ; and satisfac- 
tion. 1. The practice of confessing their sins in 
private to the ministers of religion, which the church 
of Kome requires of Christians, is unauthorized by- 
Scripture. We are there commanded to confess our 
sins to God ; and in one place we are commanded 
to confess to one another our faults, i. e. the offences 
we have given to one another.* Persons guilty of 
notorious sins have, in ail ages, according to direc- 
tions left by Christ and his apostles, been excluded 
from the communion of the church. A desire of 
being re-admitted has led them to confess guilt in 
the presence of that society to whom they had given 
offence ; and this voluntary confession, being accept- 
ed as a testimony of the sincerity of their repent- 
ance, has restored them to that communion from 
which they were excluded. Upon this kind of con- 
fession, which was at first voluntary, and available 
only for the purpose of relieving from ecclesiastical 
censures, the church of Rome grounded that private 
auricular confession, which it enjoins to all as ne- 
cessary for their acceptance with God. The doc- 
trine concerning repentance was thus made the occa- 
sion of flagrant abuse. Not only is auricular confes« 

* James v. 1(>. 


sion productive of much inconvenience to society, 
by giving the ministers of religion an undue and 
dangerous influence over the minds of the people in 
their most secret affairs ; but it perverts their no- 
tions of the justification of a sinner, and it provides 
a method of quieting their consciences, which is so 
easy of access that it encourages them to sin with 
little fear. 2. If the word contrition means that 
sorrow for sin, which is connected with the hatred 
of it as a transgression of the divine law, and as 
rendering us odious to the Father of spirits, it is 
indeed indispensably required of every sinner, and 
it naturally produces a change of life ; for as the 
apostle speaks, 2 Cor. vii. 10, " Godly sorrow 
worketh repentance unto salvation ;" a text most 
significant and instructive in itself, and upon which 
there is a sermon by Bishop Sherlock, which may 
be of more use than any treatise that I know in giv- 
ing a distinct and full conception of the nature of 
repentance. But the church of Rome, wishing it to 
be thought that they possess the power of imparting 
the benefits of repentance to persons who manifestly 
have not attained this godly sorrow, because they do 
not repent of their sins so as to forsake them, sub- 
stitute as an alternative for contrition that sorrow, 
to which they give the name of attrition. By this 
they mean a sorrow, which proceeds not from a sense 
of the evil of sin, but from the loss, the shame, or 
inconvenience of any kind, of which it has been the 
occasion. This sorrow may be expressed by words, 
by gestures, or by actions ; and all these expressions 
of attrition, being considered by the church of Rome 
as parts of repentance, although they do not imply 
any change upon the mind of a sinner, and as con- 



spiring with the two other parts of repentance to 
entitle him to receive absolution, make men easy un- 
der the consciousness of past sins, and form an in- 
ducement not to forsake these sins, but merely to 
exercise a little more prudence in the repetition of 
them. 3. By satisfaction the church of Rome means 
such works as the following : the saying a prescrib- 
ed number of prayers, the giving a certain portion 
of alms to the poor and of gifts to the church, the 
submitting to certain mortifications and penances, or 
the engaging in appointed hazards and toils ; all 
which deeds being set over against the sins which 
were confessed, and for which attrition was express- 
ed, are conceived to constitute a compensation, offer- 
ed by us to God for the breach of his law, in consi- 
deration of which that breach is forgiven. This last 
part of repentance appears to all who hold the per- 
fection of the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the 
cross to be most dishonourable to him, because it 
implies a necessity of our adding a personal atone- 
ment for sin to the " one offering by which he hath 
perfected for ever them that are sanctified." To all 
who entertain that opinion of our good works which 
I am by and by to state, it. appears most presump- 
tuous on our part ; and, independently of any sys- 
tem of religious opinions, it plainly institutes a kind 
of traffic, which is most unseemly, which may be 
perverted to the worst purposes, and which totally 
unsettles the foundations of morality, by teaching 
that the performance of one duty is an excuse for 
the neglect of another. 

In opposition to these errors and corruptions of 
the church of Rome, some of which may be traced in 
prejudices that still remain in the minds of the peo- 


pie of Scotland, we hold, and it is a great part of the 
business of our preaching to remind the people, that 
repentance, proceeding from a change of mind, and 
implying that sorrow which the Apostle calls godly, 
terminates not in certain formal acts which may be 
performed by any one, but in a change of life ; that 
it is accepted by God, not as any compensation or 
atonement for the offences committed against him, 
but purely upon account of the merits of Christ ; and 
that the only vuiequi vocal marks of its being effec- 
tual for the remission of sins, or being what the 
Scripture calls repentance unto life, are to be sought 
for not in the impressions or emotions or resolutions 
with which it is accompanied, but in the solicitude 
with which men avoid the sins of which they pro- 
fess to repent, and in the zeal and the care with 
which they study to practise the opposite virtues. 

It is possible, indeed, that repentance may be sin- 
cere, when there is no opportunity of exhibiting 
these marks : for it would be presumptuous in us to 
say, that the steps by which a criminal is conducted 
to his end are in no case the instruments which the 
Spirit of God employs in his conversion, or that sud- 
den death, by cutting short the labour of virtue 
which had just been begun, blots the beginning of it 
out of the book of life. But it is very much our 
duty to warn the people of the folly, the guilt, and 
the danger of continuing in sin, and trusting to a 
late repentance : and although, when we are called 
to witness those professions of repentance, which are 
sometimes produced by the near approach of death, 
we naturally express our earnest wish that they may 
find acceptance with the Searcher of hearts, v/ho 
alone can judge of their sincerity, yet we should be- 


ware of doing a very great injury to others, by en- 
couraging those, who are leaving the world, to think 
that what is called the reflex act of faith is at that 
time a sufficient ground for assurance of salvation. 
When this reflex act is accompanied with the evi- 
dence which arises from the fruits of the Spirit, it is 
justified in the eyes of men ; and the soul by which 
it is exerted, being sealed by the Spirit, may rise to 
what the Scripture calls " joy in the Holy Ghost." 
But fanaticism opens a door to extreme licentious- 
ness of morals, when it teaches that the high privi- 
lege, sometimes attained by those who have perse- 
vered in well-doing, is instantaneously and certainly 
conferred upon the man, who, being awakened at the 
close of a sinful life, by considerations and views that 
were strange to him, either says or thinks that he 

Some questions concerning repentance will find a 
place afterwards. But there is one other error re- 
specting the nature of it, which should be mention- 
ed here, and which results directly from the princi- 
ples of fanaticism. 

It has been thought that Christians may be able 
to tell the precise time of their conversion. It has 
sometimes been judged proper to require from them 
such a declaration ; and there are certain exercises 
of the soul, implying great dejection and agitation 
and self-reproach, and known in books, more fre- 
quently read in former times than now, by the name 
of a law-work, which it has been supposed necessary 
for every person to experience, upon whom the Spirit 
of God produces a change of character. All these 
views proceed upon the supposition that the opera- 
tion of the Spirit of God is instantaneous, discrimi- 


nated by some sensible marks from the natural work- 
ings of the human mind, and observing in all cases 
a certain known, discernible progress. But we found 
formerly that this supposition receives no counte- 
nance from the general strain of Scripture, that the 
words of our Lord, in his conversation with Nico- 
demus, (John iii. 8,) seem intended to teach us that 
the operations of the Spirit are known only by their 
fruits, and that as to the manner in which these 
fi'uits are produced, " the kingdom of God, which is 
within us," often " cometh not with observation." 
If the whole man be renewed by the grace of God, 
all the actions performed in consequence of this 
renovation will appear to be as much the actions of 
the man, as if the Spirit of God had not produced 
any change ; if the change be accomplished by means, 
by a gradual preparation, and a gentle progress, it 
may be impossible to tell the time when it com- 
menced, or to mark all its stages ; and if, in some 
cases, the means are a pious education, or a succes- 
sion of improving objects and of virtuous employ- 
ments, continued from infancy to manhood, this fa- 
vourable situation may restrain the corruption of 
the human heart from atrocious crimes, or presump- 
tuous sins. But as it is repugnant to common sense, 
and to our sentiments with regard to human con- 
duct, to say that all men are equally wicked, or all 
sins equally heinous, it appears absurd to suppose 
that those whose conduct has been widely different 
ought to feel the same remorse ; and therefore, al^ 
though the best men are always the most sensible 
of their own infirmities, and although human virtue 
cannot be so perfect as to exclude humility, self- 
abasement, and the need of repentance, yet it is 



reasonable to think that the manner of repentance, 
both the inward sentiments and the outward expres- 
sions, will vary according to the measure and the 
aggravation of those sins which men forsake. Hence 
we may draw two inferences, which I shall barely 
mention ; that those discourses do not serve a good 
purpose, which represent it as indispensably neces- 
sary for all who repent to feel the same remorse ; 
and that a doctrine, which has sometimes been avow- 
ed by Calvinists, but has oftener been imputed to 
them by those who wish to hold forth their tenets 
to public scorn, is totally groundless ; the doctrine, 
namely, that those who have been the greatest sin- 
ners are likely to become the most eminent saints. 


The second part of sanctification is conjoined with 
repentance in numberless passages of Scripture. "De- 
part from evil and do good. — Denying ungodliness and 
worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and 
godly in this present world. — That ye put off, concern- 
ing the former conversation, the old man which is cor- 
rupt, and that ye put on the new man, which after 
God is created in righteousness and true holiness. — 
Likewise reckon ye yovu'selves to be dead indeed 
unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ 
our Lord.*" 

* Psalm xxxiv. 14. Titus ii. 11, 12. Ephes. iv. 22, 24-. 
Horn. vi. }}. 


Sanctification, then, means a new life, the produc- 
tion of a habit of righteousness, as well as an aver- 
sion from sin ; and this habit of righteousness 
appears in those good works which the precepts of 
the Gospel require, unto which, it is said, we are 
created,* and which all that believe in God are com^ 
manded to be careful to maintain.f 

When we say that the precepts of the Gospel de- 
clare what those good works are, we do not mean 
that the Gospel has given a new law unconnected 
with every former intimation of the will of the 
Creator. For the moral law, being founded in the 
nature of God and the nature of man, does not, like 
the ceremonial or the judicial law, admit of being 
abrogated. It is in all situations binding, upon that 
creature to whom it is made, by the constitution of 
his own mind ; and although the duty of man may 
be unfolded in succeeding revelations with greater 
clearness, and directions may be delivered suited 
to the particular circumstances in which the revela- 
tions were given, yet the same general principles 
of morality must pervade every system of duty, 
which proceeds from the righteous Governor of the 
universe for the regulation of the conduct of man. 

From this view of the immutability of the moral 
law we deduce a satisfying answer to the Antino- 
mians, who say that Christians are released from its 
obligation. For upon this ground we are able to 
show that, although *' Christians are not under the 
Jaw, but under grace," in this sense, that they are 
not justified with God by their obedience to the 
moral law, they are as much bound to obey it as 

* Ephes. li. 10. t Titus iii. 8, 


if another method of justification had not been re- 
vealed to them. Hence also we deduce the excel- 
lence of Christian morality, as a matter not of mere 
positive institution, but of everlasting obligation : 
and in discoursing of any particular Christian duty, 
we scruple not to avail ourselves of all those views of 
the beauty, the utility, and fitness of virtue exhibit- 
ed by heathen moralists, which serve to illustrate its 
conformity to our constitution and circumstances, 
while we superadd those interesting motives which 
arise out of the genius and spirit of the Gospel. 
Hence also we deduce the perfect consistency be- 
tween the precepts of the Old and the New Testa- 
ment. It is upon this ground we stand, when we 
refuse to admit with the Socinians that Christ has 
added any thing to that moral law of which he is 
the interpreter ; and we think that, by the aid of 
those commentaries upon the ten commandments, 
which are scattered through his discourses, and the 
writings of his apostles, we are able to show that all 
the branches of Christian morality are included in 
the Decalogue. In the ordinary systems of theology, 
and above all in Calvin's Institutes, there is an ex- 
plication of the Decalogue, which merits the parti- 
cular attention of those whose business it is to 
instruct the people. Calvin's Commentary on this 
subject not only presents a short picture of the 
whole summary of our duty, but also deduces all the 
branches of it from general principles, so as to illus- 
trate the connexion, the obligation, and the relative 
importance of the several parts of morality. 

The precepts of the Gospel, thus considered not 
as the extension, but as the interpretation of the 
moral law, are the directory of a Christian ; and in 


this directory is to be sought a solution of all the 
questions that can occur in what may be called 
Christian Casuistry. Although discourses from the 
pulpit ought always to present to the people both 
the doctrines and the duties of religion in the most 
unembarrassed form, yet as the discussion of con- 
troverted points of doctrine engages the attention of 
men of speculation in theology, so casuistry, which 
is the application of the general rules of morality to 
particular cases, finds a place in those books which 
profess to treat accurately of the duties of a Christ- 
ian, and has at different periods furnished subjects 
of debate, which have been very keenly agitated. 
At some times Christian casuistry has descended to 
insignificant attempts to regulate our dress, the 
measure of our food, our sleep, and our amusement ; 
intruding into many branches of the general conduct 
of life, where every man claims a degree of liberty, 
and where particular directions can be of no use, 
because what is right in one person is wrong in an- 
other ; — because it is impossible to frame rules for 
every variety of circumstances, — and because the 
best of all rules are to be found in those considera- 
tions of propriety and benevolence, which a sound 
understanding and a good heart will not fail to sug- 
gest upon every occasion. At other times, Christian 
casuistry has turned upon general questions, sug- 
gested by scruples that were founded upon a literal 
interpretation of particular texts of Scripture. Such 
are the doubts entertained by the Quakers, and 
some other sects, whether a Christian is allowed by 
the laws of his religion to engage in war, to take an 
oath in a court of justice, or to exercise the office of 
a magistrate. At other times, Christian casuistry 


has reached the very foundations of morality ; turn- 
ing upon questions which did not arise from the 
scruples of those who were afraid of doing wrong, 
but from the presumption of men, who, wishing to 
shake off the restraints of the divine law, without 
openly denying its authority, were ingenious in de- 
vising evasions and subterfuges, by which the pre- 
cepts of the Gospel are accommodated to their cor- 
ruption. Such are the questions, whether actions, 
in themselves evil and contrary to the precepts of 
the Gospel, become lawful and meritorious, when 
they are performed with a good intention, and for a 
good end ; whether a person avoids the guilt of per- 
jury by a mental reservation at the time when he 
swears ; and other questions of the same kind, to 
which the attention of the Christian world was di- 
rected by that loose system of morality, which the 
order of Jesuits invented and defended, and which, 
if it prevailed universally, would annihilate mutual 
confidence, and dissolve the bonds of society. 

All the questions that can occur in these three 
kinds of casuistry are easily decided, when an en- 
lightened and upright mind applies, with a due ex- 
ercise of attention, the principles furnished by con- 
sidering the precepts of the Gospel as the interpre- 
tation of that moral law, which is binding upon men 
in all situations. For the precepts of the Gospel, 
considered in this light, will be found to mark, with 
a precision sufficient for the direction of life, the 
outlines of that conduct which is characteristical of 
a Christian ; — a conduct which shines before men 
without affectation, which is guarded without being 
austere, which is beneficent without being officious, 
and in which piety, righteousness, goodness, and 


temperance, are blended together with nice propor- 
tion, and with perfect harmony. This is the con- 
duct v/hich the precepts of the Gospel, and the life 
of Jesus, conspire in teaching, which it is the busi- 
ness of the ministers of religion in their discourses 
to delineate and recommend, and of which they 
should ever be careful to show an example corre- 
sponding to the delineation which they give. 

The same principle, which furnishes a solution of 
all the cases that can occur in Christian casuistry, 
exposes the falsehood of a doctrine of the church of 
Rome respecting the nature of good works, which 
has laid the foundation of many gross corruptions. 
It Avas held that there are in the Gospel counsels of 
perfection ; i, e. that besides precepts which are 
binding upon all, and which none can disobey with- 
out sin, there are advices given, which men are at 
liberty to neglect if they please, but a compliance 
with which constitutes a superior degree of perfec- 
tion. The counsels of perfection are generally re- 
duced to three ; voluntary poverty, — a vow of per- 
petual chastity, — and a vow of what is called regu- 
lar obedience. The first is founded chiefly upon the 
command addressed by our Lord to the young man 
who came to him, " If thou wilt be perfect, go and 
sell that thou hast." The second is founded upon 
some expressions in the Epistles of Paul. The third, 
the vow of that kind of obedience which is yielded 
by those who lead a monastic life to the superiors 
of their order, is founded upon the mention made in 
the Epistles of the reverence and obedience due to 
spiritual governors. Into the particulars of this 
branch of the Popish controversy it is unnecessary 
to enter. Sound criticism easily gives such an ex- 


plication of the passages to which I have alhided, as 
withdraws the support which the distinction between 
precepts and counsels in matters of morality appears 
to derive from Scripture ; and that distinction is 
completely overturned by all our conceptions of the 
law of God, and particularly by our considering the 
precepts of the Gospel as the complete directory of 
the conduct of a Christian. It is not meant, by 
using that expression, that they extend to those mat- 
ters of indifference in which a man may be safely 
left at liberty, or that they supersede the exercise of 
prudence at those times, when he may innocently 
accommodate his actions to his situation. It is al- 
lowed that the duties of men vary according to their 
circumstances, that all have not the same opportuni- 
ties of doing good, and that some are called, by the 
talents which are committed to them, and the ad- 
vantages which they enjoy, to make greater exer- 
tions than others. But, from the principle which 
has been illustrated, this consequence clearly results, 
that every man is bound to embrace all the oppor- 
tunities of doing good which his situation affords, 
because, according to that principle, the service of 
his whole life, and the full exertion of all his facul- 
ties, are due to his Creator. Every counsel, there- 
fore, of the divine word respecting moral duty is a 
command ; and " to him that knoweth to do good, 
and doeth it not, to him it is sin." But a man ought 
to be certain that what he does is good ; for if, in 
place of what his situation marks out to be his duty, 
he substitutes actions which in his imagination ap- 
pear to imply a higher degree of virtue, he is so far 
from attaining perfection by this substitution, that 
his conduct may be very sinful. He is guilty of ne< 


glecting what he ought to have done ; a neglect 
which is always faulty, and which in some situa- 
tions is both highly criminal and most hurtful to 
society. By this substitution also he entangles him- 
self in difficulties, perhaps beyond his strength ; and, 
after all his mortifications and exertions, he has no 
warrant to think that a service which was not re- 
quired at his hand, but which was the result of his 
own presumption, will be accepted by his Creator. 

For these reasons it appears to Protestants, that 
the setf-denial and abstemiousness of the monastic 
life, the voluntary poverty of the mendicant friars, 
the celibacy of the clergy, the multitude of prayers 
which many make it the business of their lives to 
offer, the pilgrimages which have often been under- 
taken, the large donations which have been left to 
the church, and the hard services which have been 
performed at her command, have not that superemi- 
nent excellence which is ascribed to them in the 
church of Rome. It appears to Protestants, that as 
these good works are not commanded by the precepts 
of the Gospel, which are the complete directory of 
the conduct of a Christian, they cannot be imposed 
upon any as a part of their duty to God ; and that 
the performing them ultroneously, far from coming 
up to that refined and spiritual morality, by the 
practice of which Christians are commanded to do 
more than others, is an effort after an ideal and false 
perfection, which withdraws men from the duties 
they are called to perform, which diverts the powers 
of human nature and the bounties of Providence 
from the purposes for which they were bestowed, 
and which tends to destroy the essence of morality, 
by leading men to rest in the splendour of external 


actions, instead of cultivating those virtues of the 
heart out of which are the issues of a good life. 

From the doctrine of justification by faith, Pro- 
testants easily dedvice a refutation of other opinions 
of the church of Rome, concerning the merit of good 
works. The schoolmen in that church spoke of 
meritum de congruo^ and meritum de condigno. By 
meritum de congi^uo^ they meant the value of good 
w^orks and good dispositions previous to justifica- 
tion which it was fit or congruous for God to re- 
ward by infusing his grace. To this kind of merit 
the whole of the Calvinistic doctrine concerning jus- 
tification by faith is directly opposed. By meritum 
de condigno, they meant the value of good works 
performed after justification in consequence of the 
grace then infused. These, although performed by 
the grace of God, were conceived to have that in- 
trinsic worth which merits a reward, and to which 
eternal life is as much due, as a wage is to the ser- 
vant by whom it is earned. In opposition to this kind 
of merit, Protestants hold that as every thing which 
we can do is our bounden duty and is not profitable 
to God, our good works cannot, in a proper sense of 
the word merit, deserve a recompense from him ; that 
although the good works commanded in Scripture, and 
produced by the influence of the Spirit, give the per- 
son who maintains them a real excellence of character, 
by which he is superior to others, by which he is 
" acceptable to God, and approved of men," and in re- 
spect of which he is styled in Scripture worthy, they 
do not constitute a right to claim any thing from 
God as a reward ; that the expression frequent in 
Scripture, " God will render to every man according 
to his deeds," implies that good works are a pre- 


J, J 

paration for heaven, or an indispensable qualifica- 
tion for the promised reward, and that there shall 
be a proportion between the virtuous exertion here 
and the measure of the reward conferred hereafter ; 
but that good works are not in any respect the pro- 
curing cause of the reward. For the reward is re- 
presented as " of grace, not of debt," flowing from 
the promise of God upon account of the merits of 
his Son ; and while death is called " the wages of 
sin," Rom. vi. 23, eternal life is said, in the very 
same verse, to be " the gift of God through Jesus 
Christ our Lord." 

The church of Rome did not rest in saying that 
our good works may merit eternal life. As they 
supposed that there are in Scripture counsels of per- 
fection, a compliance with which constitutes a su- 
pereminent excellence of character, they inferred 
that those who attained this excellence did more 
than merit eternal life for themselves. To the 
actions by which men choose to follow these coun- 
sels of perfection, they gave the name of works of 
supererogation. They supposed that, by the com- 
munion which subsists amongst all Christians, the 
benefit of works of supererogation performed by 
some is imparted to others ; and in the progress of 
the corruptions of that church, it was taught and 
believed, that the whole stock of superfluous merit 
arising out of the good works of those who comply 
with the counsels of perfection, is committed to the 
management of the Pope, to be parcelled out accord- 
ing to his pleasure, in such dispensations and in- 
dulgences as the sins or infirmities of other mem- 
bers of the church appear to him to stand in need 
of. It is sufficient for the refutation of these tenets 


in this place to mention them. Notwithstanding 
the preparation of ages, by which the minds of men 
had been conducted to these articles of faith, and 
the various interests which were concerned in 
their being retained, the enormous abuses of that 
discretionary power with which they invested the 
Pope were the immediate cause of the Reformation : 
and although the change then introduced into the 
religious system of a great part of Christendom was 
accompanied with much enthusiasm and violent men- 
tal agitation, yet the principles upon which it pro- 
ceeded approve themselves to the understanding of 
every sober inquirer, who follows out, through its 
several branches, the great doctrine held by the first 
reformers of justification by faith. For, according 
to that doctrine, the pardon of sin and our right to 
eternal life are entirely owing to the merits of Christ, 
which are counted as ours, in consequence of our pos- 
sessing that faith which produces such good works 
as the law of God commands ; so that although good 
works are essential to our own salvation, they are 
not the meritorious cause of it ; and although our 
good works may minister to the comfort and im- 
provement of others upon earth, " none of us can 
by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a 
ransom for him." 

It would be an additional refutation of the merit 
of good works, and would demonstrate the impossi- 
bility of works of supererogation, if it could be shown 
that even a person who is justified cannot yield a 
perfect obedience to the commands of God. For, in 
that case, however splendid some of his actions 
might be, the sin and the consequent guilt which 
adhere to others, would take away from his whole 


character every claim of right to a reward. Ac- 
cordingly there yet remains one question with re- 
gard to good works, which requires to be stated 
more fully than any of the preceding, upon account 
of the principles that are involved in the discussion, 
and the consequences that flow from it. The ques- 
tion is, whether it is possible that the good works 
of Christians can be free from every mixture of sin ; 
or, to speak in theological language, whether the 
sanctification of the elect is in this life complete. 


It was the principle of a fanatical sect, which arose 
early after the Reformation, and was known from a 
particular circumstance in their practice by the name 
of Anabaptists, that the visible church of Christ 
consists of saints, or persons free from every kind 
of sin. The doctrine taught by Munzer, the foun- 
der of this sect, resulted entirely from this principle ; 
and his enthusiasm prevented him from perceiving 
that such a church is not to be found upon earth. 
Several modern sects, which have arisen out of the 
ancient Anabaptists, have been instructed by reason, 
by Scripture, and by experience, to accommodate their 
principles to the present state of human nature. 
But while they admit that many members of the 
church sin, repent, and are forgiven, they contend 
that it is possible to attain that degree of perfection 
in which men are exempt from sinning, and they 

VOL. III. s 


mean to insinuate that this degree of perfection is 
often found in their society. 

This presumption, which in all fanatical sects has 
its foundation in the confidence of their being under 
the immediate direction of the Spirit, is generally 
cherished by their holding some form of the Syner- 
gistical doctrine. Pelagians and Socinians, who do 
not admit that the powers of human nature were in- 
jured by the fall, readily conclude that every man is 
as able to obey the commands of God, as Adam was 
immediately after his creation ; that he who abstains 
from one sin may abstain from all ; and that perfect 
innocence is thus attainable by a proper exercise of 
our own faculties. And all who hold that modifica- 
tion of these tenets, which is called Semi-Pelagian- 
ism, consider the corruption of human nature as nei- 
ther so inveterate nor so universal, but that in some 
persons the influence of the Spirit being favourably 
received, and finding a co-operation of all their pow- 
ers, may, by the continuance of a proper attention 
on their part, be rendered so effectual for their sanc- 
tification as to preserve them from every thing sin- 

Accordingly it is the doctrine of a great part of 
the church of Rome, of the Franciscans, and the Je- 
suits, or Molinists, that perfection is attainable in 
this life. In order to reconcile this position with 
those defects and errors which have been observed 
in the lives of the best men that ever lived, they 
make a distinction between mortal and venial sins. 
By mortal sins, they understand actions which are 
so flagrant a transgression of the law of God, and 
imply such deliberate wickedness, as to deserve final 
condemnation ; and from these they consider every 


man, into whom the grace of God has been infused 
at his first justification, as completely preserved. 
By venial sins, they understand both those sudden 
emotions of passion and inordinate desire, which, so 
long as they are restrained from going forth into 
action, are regarded by them as the constitutional 
infirmities of human nature ; and also those actions, 
which, although contrary to the letter of the law, 
are in themselves a trifling transgression, or are at- 
tended with circumstances alleviating the fault and 
indicating good intention. It was meant by calling 
such sins venial, either that they deserve no punish- 
ment at all, or that they are completely expiated by 
temporal sufferings, so as not to be remembered in 
the judgment of the last day : and it was understood, 
that when the sins of this kind, into which it is ad- 
mitted a saint may fall, are set over against his un- 
interrupted obedience to all the great commandments 
of the law and the supereminent excellence of his 
good works, his character, upon the whole, is enti- 
tled to be accounted perfect. 

On the other hand, the Dominicans and Janse- 
nists learned, from the doctrine of Augustine con- 
cerning the corruption of human nature and the 
measure of divine grace, to hold the following posi- 
tion, which is absolutely inconsistent with the per- 
fection of good works ; " that there are divine pre- 
cepts which good men, notwithstanding their desire 
to observe them, are nevertheless absolutely unable 
to obey ; nor has God given them the measure of 
grace that is essentially necessary to render them 
capable of such obedience." This is one of the five 
propositions contained in the book entitled Augusti- 
nus, which was often condemned in the seventeenth 


century by the Popes. Janseniiis, the author of that 
book, who meant to give a faithful picture of the 
sentiments of Augustine, derived this proposition 
from the writings of that father ; and, in like man- 
ner, all those Protestants, who hold that system 
which Calvin also learned from Augustine, not only 
say that perfection is not in fact attained in this life, 
but say farther that it cannot be attained, and that 
it is part of the economy of the Gospel, that sanctifi- 
cation, although it originates in the operation of the 
Spirit of God, continues to be incomplete. Thus 
the Church of England maintains, in the twelfth 
Article, " good works, which are the fruits of faith, 
and follow after justification, cannot put away our 
sins and endure the severity of God's judgment :" in 
the fifteenth Article, " all we, although baptized and 
born again in Christ, yet offend in many things ;" 
and in the sixteenth Article, " they are to be con- 
demned which say they can no more sin as long as 
they live here." In like manner our Confession of 
Faith declares, Chap. xiii. 2, " Sanctification is 
throughout in the whole man ; yet imperfect in this 
life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption 
in every part :" and Chap. xvi. 6, 7, " Our best 
works as they are wrought by us are defiled and 
mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that 
they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment. 
Yet, notwithstanding the persons of believers being 
accepted through Christ, their good works also are 
accepted in him, not as though they were in this life 
wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God's sight ; 
but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased 
to accept and reward that which is sincere, although 


accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfec- 

This doctrine of the imperfection of sanctification 
in this life, which the two established churches of 
this -island thus manifestly agree in holding, rests 
upon such grounds as the following. The Scrip- 
tures, while they declare that *' in many things we 
offend all," give no countenance to the dangerous 
distinction between venial and mortal sins. But al- 
though they represent sins as of different magni- 
tudes and deserving different degrees of punishment, 
they also represent every transgression of the law of 
God as implying that guilt by which the transgres- 
sor is under a sentence of condemnation ; and they 
apply the name of sin to inordinate desire even be- 
fore it is carried forth into action, and uniformly de- 
scribe it as offensive to God. 

Further, they hold it forth as the distinguishing 
and peculiar character of the man Christ Jesus, that 
he was without sin, and they record many grievous 
sins committed by those, whom, from the manner 
in which they are spoken of in other places, we 
are led to consider as having been justified with 

Further, there are in the New Testament descrip- 
tions of a continued struggle between the Spirit, 
which is the principle of sanctification, and the cor- 
ruption of human nature, by which that principle 
is opposed. The most striking passage of this kind 
is to be found in Romans vii. Calvinists generally 
consider the apostle as there speaking, in his own 
person, of a man who has been regenerated by the 
grace of God. In this case his expressions mark 
very strongly the corruption that remains in the 


hearts of the best men. Other Christians, who de- 
ny, or who wish to extenuate this corruption, consi- 
der him afe speaking in the person of a man who has 
not partaken of the grace of God ; in which case his 
expressions mark either the combat between appe- 
tite and reason which all moral writers describe, or 
the compunction and self-reproach of a man who is 
struggling by the mere powers of his own nature to 
disentangle himself from habits of vice. The true 
interpretation of the passage must be gathered by a 
careful study of the writings of Paul, and by the 
help of the best commentators. There are other 
passages in his Epistles, where the same struggle 
which the Calvinists suppose to be meant in Romans 
vii. seems to be described. Of this kind is the fol- 
lowing : Gal. V. 17, " The flesh lusteth against the 
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are 
contrary the one to the other ; so that ye cannot do 
the things that ye would." It appears, too, that the 
general strain of Scripture, — the image of a warfare 
under which it describes the Christian life, — the fear 
and circumspection which it enjoins, and the daily 
prayer for forgiveness which our Lord directs his 
followers to present, all favour the Calvinistic doc- 
trine respecting the imperfection of sanctification. 
To these arguments from Scripture it may be added, 
that this doctrine corresponds wath the circum- 
stances of man in a present state, v/here he is sur- 
rounded with temptations to evil, and retains, in a 
greater or less degree, a propensity to yield to them ; 
and that it is unquestionably agreeable to the expe- 
rience of the best people, who not only feel many in- 
firmities, but who are accustomed to acknowledge 
that, after alt their exertions, they fall very far short 


of what they are in duty bound to do, and that, with 
all their circumspection and vigilance, they often 
commit sins for which they have need of repent- 

To a doctrine thus supported by Scripture and ex- 
perience, it is not enough to oppose, as the advocates 
for the perfection of the saints are wont to do, rea- 
sonings drawn from the power and the holiness of 
God, from the intention of the death of Christ, or 
from the gift of the Spirit. Far from presuming 
upon these reasonings, that a full participation of 
the benefits of the Gospel will in this life overcome 
the corruptions of human nature so entirely as to 
leave no remainders of sin, it becomes us to correct 
our conjectures with regard to the effect of the ope- 
ration of God by the declarations of his word, and 
by the measure in which that effect is experienced 
by his people. Since these two rules of judging are, 
upon this point, in perfect concert, every passage of 
Scripture, which appears to contradict the doctrine 
which they unite in establishing, must receive such 
an interpretation as shall render Scripture consist- 
ent with itself ; and every branch of the Calvinistic 
system must be held with such qualifications as this 
doctrine renders necessary. When we read, there- 
fore, 1 John iii. 9, " Whosoever is born of God doth 
not commit sin ; and he cannot sin, because he is 
born of God," we understand the apostle to mean, 
not that sin is never committed by those who are 
born of God ; for we find him expressing himself 
thus, 1 John i. 8, " If we say that we have no sin, 
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us ;" 
but that whosoever is born of God is not an habi- 
tual sinner, or cannot obstinately persist in commit- 


ting sin. When we meet with exhortations to per- 
fection, — when we find the word perfect introduced 
into some of the characters drawn in Scripture, — 
when we read of persons " walking in all the com- 
mandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," 
we understand a comparative perfection to be spoken 
of, sincerity of obedience, hatred of every kind of sin ; 
what the Scripture often mentions along with per- 
fection as equivalent to it, an upright and zealous 
endeavour to conform in all things to the law of 
God ; what is called by divines a perfection of parts, 
although not of degrees. When we speak of the 
perseverance of the saints, we mean, not an uniform 
unsinning obedience, but the continual operation of 
the principles communicated to their souls, and al- 
ways abiding there, by which they are certainly re- 
covered from the sins into which they are betrayed, 
and are enabled, amidst all their weaknesses and im- 
perfections, to " grow in grace." And we allow that 
the assurance of grace and salvation is very much 
interrupted by the sins, of which the best men are 
occasionally guilty. 

As all the parts of the Calvinistic system are in- 
timately connected with one another, so the doctrine 
which we are now illustrating is essentially necessary 
in order to our holding the two doctrines last men- 
tioned, the perseverance of the saints, and the as- 
surance of grace and salvation. For as it is an un- 
questionable fact that all men sin, unless it be ad- 
mitted that sanctification is in this life incomplete, 
it will follow either that there are none upon earth 
who evei- partook of the grace of God, which is to 
deny the existence of the church of Christ, or that 
those who have been sanctified repeatedly fall from 


a state of grace, and never can have any assurance 
of their final salvation. But if the doctrine of the 
imperfection of sanctification be admitted, there is 
no impossibility in holding the two others. At the 
same time it must be acknowledged, that the part of 
the Calvinistic system, which is the most liable to 
abuse, is the connexion between these three doctrines : 
and there is no subject upon which the ministers of 
the Gospel are called to exercise so much caution, 
both in their public discourses and in their private 
intercourse with the people. Many are disposed to 
solace themselves under the consciousness of their 
own sins, by the recollection of those into which 
good men have formerly fallen, and by a confidence 
that, as sanctification is always imperfect, they may 
be amongst the number of the elect, although their 
lives continue to be stained with gross transgres- 
sions. It is not by holding forth ideal pictures of 
human perfection, that this dangerous error is to be 
counteracted ; for this is encouraging the indolence 
of those who entertain it, by confirming them in the 
belief that it is impossible for them to do what is 
required. It must be met by imprinting upon the 
minds of our hearers such important truths as the 
following : that the remainder of corruption which 
God sees meet to leave in the best, while it serves to 
correct the deep despair which in some constitutions 
accompanies religious melancholy, is to all a lesson 
of humility and watchfulness ; that they, who, from 
experience of this corruption, or from the sins which 
it produces in others, take encouragement to persist 
in deliberate and wilful transgression, discover a de- 
pravity of heart which indicates that no saving- 
change has been wrought upon their character ; that 


the repentance, which we are called to exercise for 
our daily offences, implies a desire and an endeavour 
to abstain from sin ; that those aspirations after a 
state where the spirits of the just shall be made per- 
fect, which are quickened by the consciousness of 
our present infirmities, cannot be sincere without the 
most vigorous efforts to acquire the sentiments and 
habits which are the natural preparation for that 
state ; that although none are in this life faultless, 
yet some approach much nearer to the standard of 
excellence held forth in the Gospel than others ; and 
that it is the duty of all, by continued improvements 
in goodness, to go on to perfection. 

These views, all of which are clearly warranted 
by Scripture, guard against the abuse which I men- 
tioned ; and that imperfect but progressive sanctifi- 
cation, which is the work of the Spirit, opens the 
true nature of Christian morality — of that evangeli- 
cal perfection which all the discoveries of the Gos- 
pel tend to form, and which through the grace of 
the Gospel is accepted of God and crowned with 
an everlasting reward. Christian morality has its 
foundation laid in humility. It excludes presump- 
tion, and self-confidence, and claims of merit. It 
implies continual vigilance and solicitude. Yet it 
is a morality free from gloom and despair ; because 
it is connected with a dependence upon that Almigh- 
ty power, and a confidence in that exuberant good- 
ness, which furnish the true remedy for the present 
weakness of human nature. It is a morality not ex- 
empt from blemishes ; " for thera is no man that 
sinneth not." But it is a morality which extends 
with equal and uniform care to all the precepts of 
the divine law, which admits not of the deliberate 



continued indulgence of any sin, and which follows 
after perfection. Every failure administers a lesson 
of future circumspection : compunction for the sins 
that are daily repented of, and thankfulness for the 
grace by which they are forgiven, bind the soul more 
closely to the service of God ; the affections are gra- 
dually purified ; virtuous exertion becomes more vi- 
gorous and successful ; there is a sensible approach, 
in passing through the state of trial, to the unsullied 
holiness which belongs to the state of recompense. 
The soul, established by a consciousness of this pro- 
gress in the joy and peace of believing, cherishes the 
desire and the hope of being made like to God ; and 
the whole life of a Christian upon earth corresponds 
to the words in which the apostle Paul has describ- 
ed his opinion of himself, his conduct, and his ex- 
pectations. " Not as though I had already at- 
tained, either were already perfect ; but I follow 
after, if that I may apprehend that for which also 
I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I 
count not myself to have apprehended ; but this one 
thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, 
and reaching forth unto those things which are be- 
fore, I press toward the mark for the prize of the 
high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us, there- 
fore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." * 

* Philippians iii. 12 — 15. 




Many of the terms, which were introduced in the 
discussion of particular theological questions, have 
now become part of the technical language of theolo- 
gy ; such as reconciliation, satisfaction, atonement, 
redemption, and others which belong to the nature 
of the remedy : predestination, election, reprobation, 
grace, and others which belong to the extent and the 
application of the remedy. There are other terms 
including a complex view of the whole subject, which 
could not properly be explained till we had finished 
the three great divisions of it. I am now to speak 
of several terms which are in common use amongst 
all Christians, although not understood by all in the 
same sense, because more or less meaning is an- 
nexed to them, according to the opinions entertained 
upon the different parts of the whole subject. 

1. The dispensation of the Gospel is often repre- 
sented in Scripture under the notion of a kingdom ; 
the kingdom of Christ ; a kingdom given to him by 
the Father, in which all power is committed to him, 
and all nations are appointed to do him homage. 
Those who refuse to submit to him are his enemies, 
who shall illustrate his glory by the punishment 


which he will inflict. Those who believe in him, 
being relieved by his interposition from misery, are 
his subjects, his people, attached to their deliverer 
by gratitude, admiration, and a sense of duty ; show- 
ing forth his praise now by their obedience to those 
laws which he has enacted, and by the peace and joy 
which, through that obedience, they attain ; and 
destined to exhibit through all ages the triumphs of 
the Captain of Salvation, by the supreme felicity 
which they shall receive hereafter as his gift. His 
power is exerted in applying the remedy to this pe- 
culiar people, or in disposing their minds to embrace 
it, and in forming and preserving that character by 
which they are prepared for entering into the joy of 
their Lord. For this purpose he imparts to them 
those gifts which " he received for men when he 
ascended on high ; he sends his Spirit into their 
hearts ; he enables them to overcome those spiritual 
enemies which are often mentioned in Scripture ; he 
makes the angels, who are also subject to him, mi- 
nistering spirits to these heirs of salvation ; and he 
renders the whole course of his providence subser- 
vient to their improvement. By all these means he 
keeps their souls from evil while they live upon earth ; 
and having " destroyed him that had the power of 
death," he will raise their bodies from the grave, and 
give them a crown of life. 

This is a picture which is presented not only in 
the bold figures of the ancient prophets, but also 
in the more temperate language of the writers of 
the New Testament. Many of the parts are very 
pleasing ; and all unite with perfect consistency in 
forming a splendid interesting object, possessing 
that entire unity which arises from a continued re- 


ference to one illustrious person. Those who differ 
very widely in opinion as to the dignity of the per- 
son, or the purpose and the execution of his under- 
taking', cannot agree as to the method of filling up 
and colouring the several parts of this picture. But 
they all profess to use the same phrases, as being 
clearly founded in the language of Scripture ; and 
the interpretation, by which they accommodate these 
phrases to their own particular systems, is easily 
deduced from the general principles of those systems. 
Hence it is sufficient for me thus briefly to notice 
this very extensive subject of popular and practical 

2. There is a second kind of phraseology founded 
upon the connexion between Jesus Christ and his 
subjects, by which they are represented sometimes 
as parts of a building, of which he is the corner- 
stone ; sometimes as his branches, he being the true 
vine ; and more commonly as the members of a body, 
of which he is the head, deriving from him strength 
for the discharge of every duty, and the principles 
of that life which shall never end. This last figure 
expresses, in the most significant manner, what is 
called in theological language the union of believers 
with Christ. The bond of union is their faith in 
him ; the effects of the union are a communication 
of all the fruits of his sufferings ; a sense of his 
love ; a continued influence of his Spirit ; and a se- 
curity derived from his resurrection and exaltation 
that they shall be raised and glorified with him. 
And thus, while this figure serves in a very high 
degree to magnify the completeness of the provision 
made by Christ for the salvation of his people, it 
inculcates at the same time, with striking force, a 


lesson of dependence upon him, and a lesson of mu- 
tual love. But as all figures are apt to be abused 
by the extravagance of human fancy, there are none, 
the abuse of which is more frequent or more dan- 
gerous than those in which the sublimity of the 
image serves to nourish presumption, or to encou- 
rage indolence. Accordingly the expressions in 
which Scripture has conveyed this figure are the 
passages most commonly quoted by all fanatical sects, 
as giving countenance to their bold imagination of 
an immediate intercourse with heaven. They have 
sometimes also been alleged in vindication of Anti- 
nomian tenets. Much caution, therefore, is neces- 
sary when this figure is used in discourses addressed 
to the people, that they may never lose sight of that 
substantial connexion which it is meant to exhibit, 
and that the impression of their being distinct and 
accountable agents may never be swallowed up in 
the confused apprehension of a mystical union. 

3. A third kind of phraseology, not uncommon 
in Scripture, and from thence transferred into 
theological systems, is that according to which 
adoption, a word of the Roman law, which ex- 
pressed a practice recognised in former times as 
legal, is applied to the superlative goodness mani- 
fested in the Gospel. Some Christians consider this 
phrase as marking nothing more than that those re- 
ligious privileges, upon account of which Israel is 
called in the Old Testament the son, the first born 
of God, are now extended to the nations or large so- 
cieties of men descended from heathen ancestors, to 
whom the Gospel is published. Others consider it as 
marking that imitation of the Supreme Being, of 
which faith in the revelation of the Gospel is the 


principle, and by which, becoming '' followers of 
God as dear children," we attain that moral excel- 
lence to which the Gospel was designed to exalt hu- 
man nature. But the greater part of Christians con- 
sider the adoption spoken of in the New Testament 
as including, besides both these meanings, a particu- 
lar view of the change made upon the condition of 
all that are justified; who, although they " were ene- 
mies by wicked works," become through faith in 
Jesus the children of God, are received into his fa- 
mily, are placed under his immediate protection, are 
led by his counsel and his Spirit, have access to him 
at all times, and possess that security of obtaining 
eternal life, which arises from its being their inhe- 
ritance as the sons of God. It is obvious that while 
this phrase, thus understood, presents a comprehen- 
sive and delightful view of the blessings which be- 
long to true Christians, it may also be improved to 
the purpose of enforcing the discharge of their duty 
by the most animating and endearing considerations ; 
and when these two uses of the phrase are properly 
conjoined, there is none to be found in Scripture 
that is more significant. 

4. There is a fourth kind of phraseology, which 
will require a fuller illustration than I have thought 
it necessary to bestow upon the others. It extends 
through a great part of what we are accustomed to 
call the system ; many doctrines of which, although 
they appear at first sight far removed from it, are 
found, upon examination, to derive their peculiar 
complexion from the ideas upon which this phraseo- 
logy proceeds. It is that, according to which the 
terms, the new covenant, and the covenant of grace, are 
applied as a name for the dispensation of the Gospel. 



The Greek word haQyim occurs often in the Sep- 
tuagint, as the translation of a Hebrew word, which 
signifies covenant ; it occurs also in the Gospels and 
the Epistles ; and it is rendered in our English Bibles 
sometimes covenant, sometimes testament. The 
Greek word, according to its etymology, and accord- 
ing to classical use, may denote a testament, a dis- 
position, as well as a covenant ; and the Gospel may 
be called a testament, because it is a signification of 
the will of our Saviour ratified by his death, and be- 
cause it conveys blessings to be enjoyed after his 
death. These reasons for giving the dispensation of 
the Gospel the name of a testament appeared to our 
translators so striking, that they have rendered bia&n^n 
more frequently by the word testament, than by the 
word covenant. Yet the train of argument, where 
biaQnm occurs, generally appears to proceed upon its 
meaning a covenant ; and therefore, although, when 
we delineate the nature of the Gospel, the beautiful 
idea of its being a testament is not to be lost sight 
of, yet we are to remember that the word testament, 
which we read in the Gospels and Epistles, is the 
translation of a word, which the sense requires to be 
rendered covenant. When Jesus instituted the Lord's 
Supper, he said, " This cup is -h zaivn bia^nm £" ^v ^''i^^'^^ i^^^^ 
or ro ai'xct rra Kciivric, dioLdmrjg. As thesc words are applied 
to that which he intended to be a memorial of his 
death, there may seem to be a peculiar propriety in 
rendering diadrixn, as our translators have there done, 
by the word testament. But it is to be observed, 



that Ku/vTi dia^rixr, implies a reference to a former, which 
is often called in the Epistles rraXata or v^urrj dta&vixn. 
Now there was nothing in the -^raXa/a dia6ri>^yi analogous 
to the notion of a testament. And, therefore, al- 
though to the /ca/v>5 djadmri there did supervene this pe- 
culiar and interesting circumstance, that the blessings 
therein promised are conveyed by the death of a 
testator, yet the contrast between the craXa/a and aaivn 
bta6ri%ri would be better marked, if the substantive 
were rendered by a word, which is equally proper 
when applied to both adjectives, rather than by a 
word, which, however fitly it corresponds to one of 
them, cannot without a considerable stretch of mean- 
ing be joined to the other. In the passage, Heb. ix. 
15, 16, 17, the apostle appears, by our translation, 
to found an argument upon an allusion to the classi- 
cal meaning of diadriKvi, as signifying a testament. But 
so far is there from being any necessity for translat- 
ing it testament in this place, that the reasoning of 
the apostle is more pertinent and forcible, when co- 
venant, the common rendering of the word, is retain- 
ed. The following is Dr. Macknight's translation of 
these three verses : " And for this reason, of the new 
covenant he is the mediator, that his death being 
accomplished for the redemption of the transgres- 
sions of the first- covenant, the called may receive 
the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a 
covenant [is made by sacrifice,] there is a necessity 
that the death of the appointed sacrifice be brought 
in. For a covenant is firm over dead sacrifices, 
seeing it never hath force whilst the appointed sacri- 
fice liveth." 

A covenant implies two parties, and mutual sti- 
pulations. The new covenant must derive its name 



from something in the nature of the stipulations be- 
tween the parties different from that which existed 
before ; so that we cannot understand the propriety 
of the name otaivn, without looking back to what is 
called the ^aXa/a, or a^wr?j. On examining the passa- 
ges in Gal. iii. in 2 Cor. iii. and in Heb. viii. ix. x. 
where caXa/a and xaivri diadrizri are contrasted, it will be 
found that rraXaia d/adn'^yj means the dispensation given 
by Moses to the children of Israel ; and xaivn dia9ri)cri, 
the dispensation of the Gospel published by Jesus 
Christ ; and that the object of the apostle is to illus- 
trate the superior excellence of the latter dispensa- 
tion. But, in order to preserve the consistency of 
the apostle's writings, it is necessary to remember 
that there are two different lights in which the 
former dispensation may be viewed. Christians ap- 
pear to draw the line between -^raXa/a and zaivri d/adri7.7^, 
according to the light in which they view tPiat dis- 
pensation. It may be considered merely as a me- 
thod of publishing the moral law to a particular na- 
tion ; and then with whatever solemnity it was de- 
livered, and with whatever cordiality it was accept- 
ed, it is not a covenant that could give life. For 
being nothing more than what divines call a cove- 
nant of works, a directory of conduct requiring by 
its nature entire personal obedience, promising life 
to those who yielded that obedience, but making no 
provision for transgressors, it left under a curse 
" every one that continued not in all things that 
were written in the book of the law to do them." 
This is the essential imperfection of what is called 
the covenant of works, the name given in theology 
to that transaction, in which it is conceived that 
the Supreme Lord of the universe promised to his 


creature man, that he would reward that obedience 
to his law, which, without any such promise, was 
due to him as the Creator. It is understood in the 
Calvinistic system that this covenant was entered 
into with Adam, as the representative of the human 
race. It is allowed by those who deny this repre- 
sentation, that a covenant of works is entered into 
with every one of the children of Adam by the con- 
dition of his being; for " the Gentiles show the 
work of the law written in their hearts." And 
they who regard the covenant made with Israel at 
Mount Sinai, which has been called the Sinaitic 
covenant, as nothing more than a manner of giving 
the moral law with peculiar circumstances of splen- 
dour and majesty, consider the following epithets 
which occur in the writings of Paul, as applicable 
in their full meaning to the whole of the Mosaic dis- 
pensation ; " weak through the flesh," * i. e. not 
containing a provision for the salvation of men suit- 
ed to the necessity of their nature ; " unprofitable, 
making nothing perfect ;" f " the ministration of 
death." X 

But although some sects of Christians have cho- 
sen to rest in this view of the Mosaic dispensation, 
there is another view of it opened to us in Scrip- 
ture. No sooner had Adam broken the covenant of 
works, than a promise of a final deliverance from the 
evils incurred by the breach of it was given. This 
promise was the foundation of that transaction which 
Almighty God, in treating with Abraham, conde- 
scends to call " my covenant with thee," and which, 
upon this authority, has received in theology the 
name of the Abrahamic covenant. Upon the one 
* Rom. viii. 3. t Heb. vii. 18, 19. t 2 Cor. iii. 7- 


part, Abraham, whose faith was counted to him for 
righteousness, received this charge from God, ** walk 
before me and be thou perfect ;" upon the other part, 
the God whom he believed, and whose voice he 
obeyed, besides promising other blessings to him and 
his seed, uttered these significant words, " in thy 
seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." 

In this transaction then there was the essence of a 
covenant, for there were mutual stipulations between 
two parties ; and there was superadded, as a seal of 
the covenant, the rite of circumcision, which, being 
prescribed by God, was a confirmation of his promise 
to all who complied with it, and being submitted to 
by Abraham, was, on his part, an acceptance of the 

The Abrahamic covenant appears, from the nature 
of the stipulations, to be more than a covenant of 
works ; and, as it was not confined to Abraham, but 
extended to his seed, it could not be disannulled by 
any subsequent transactions, which fell short of a 
fulfilment of the blessing promised. The law of 
Moses, which was given to the seed of Abraham four 
hundred and thirty years after, did not come up to 
the terms of that covenant even with regard to them, 
for in its form it was a covenant of works, and to 
other nations it did not directly convey any blessing. 
But although the Mosaic dispensation did not fulfil 
the Abrahamic covenant, it was so far from setting 
that covenant aside, that it cherished the expecta- 
tion of its being fulfilled : for it continued the rite 
of circumcision, which was the seal of the covenant ; 
and in those ceremonies which it enjoined, there was 
a shadow, a type, an obscure representation of the 
promised blessing. Accordingly, many who lived 


under the -raXa/a d/adrtxri wei'e justified by faith in a 
Saviour who was to come. The nation of Israel 
considered themselves as the children of the cove- 
nant made with Abraham ; and v/hen the Messiah 
was born, his birth was regarded by devout Jews as 
a performance of the mercy promised to their fathers 
in remembrance of the holy covenant made with 
Abraham. * 

Here, then, is another view of the Mosaic dispen- 
sation. " It was added because of transgressions, 
till the seed should come to whom the promise 
was made." f By delivering a moral law which 
men felt themselves unable to obey, by denouncing 
judgments which it did not of itself provide any ef- 
fectual method of escaping, and by holding forth in 
various oblations the promised and expected Saviour, 
" it was a schoolmaster to bring men unto Christ." 
The covenant made with Abraham retained its force 
during the dispensation of the law, and was the end 
of that dispensation. And the particular manner of 
administering this covenant, which the wisdom of 
God chose to continue for a long course of ages, is 
called 'TraXaioc bioLdriwi' When the purposes for which 
this manner was chosen were accomplished, 'irakata. 
ha&rr/.7i, '' waxing old, vanished away ;" and there suc- 
ceeded that other method of administering the co- 
venant, which, in respect of the facility of all the 
observances, the simplicity and clearness with which 
the blessings are exhibited, and the extent to which 
they are prom.ulgated, is called xaivri ha^njcr) ; but which 
is so far from being opposite to -raXa/a ^ladyi^r,, or essen- 
tially different from it that it is in substance the 

* Liikci. 72, 73. t GaL ill. 19. 


very Gospel which was " preached before unto Abra- 
ham," and was embraced by all those who " walked 
in the steps of his faith." 

Writers upon theology, sometimes from a differ- 
ence in general principles, and sometimes from a 
desire to elucidate the subject by introducing a new 
language, have differed in the application of the 
terms now mentioned. But the views which have 
been given furnish the grounds upon which we de- 
fend that established language, which is familiar to 
our ears, that there are only two covenants essen- 
tially different, and opposite to one another, the co- 
venant of works, made with the first man, intimated 
by the constitution of human nature to every one of 
his posterity, and having for its terms, " Do this 
and live ;" — and the covenant of grace, which was 
the substance of the Abrahamic covenant, and which 
entered into the constitution of the Sinaitic co- 
venant, but which is more clearly revealed and 
more extensively published in the Gospel. 

This last covenant, which the Scriptures call new 
in respect of the mode of its dispensation under the 
Gospel, although it is not new in respect of its es- 
sence, has received, in the language of theology, the 
name of the covenant of grace, for the two follow- 
ing obvious reasons ; because, after man had broken 
the covenant of works, it was pure grace or favour 
in the Almighty to enter into a new covenant with 
him ; and because by the covenant there is convey- 
ed that grace, which enables man to comply with 
the terms of it. It could not be a covenant unless 
there were terms — something required, as well as 
something promised or given, — duties to be per- 
formed, as well as blessings to be received. Accord- 


ingly, the tenor of the new covenant, founded upon 
the promise originally made to Abraham, is ex- 
pressed by Jeremiah in words which the apostle to 
the Hebrews has quoted as a description of it ; " I will 
be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:"* 
— words, which intimate, on one part, not only en- 
tire reconciliation with God, but the continued 
exercise of all the perfections of the Godhead in 
promoting the happiness of his people, and the full 
communication of all the blessings which flow 
from his unchangeable love ; on the other part, 
the surrender of the heart and affections of his peo- 
ple, the dedication of all the powers of their nature 
to his service, and the willing uniform obedience of 
their lives. But, although there are mutual stipu- 
lations, the covenant retains its character of a co- 
venant of grace, and must be regarded as having its 
source pvirely in the grace of God. For the very 
circumstances which rendered the new covenant ne- 
cessary take away the possibility of there being any 
merit upon our part : the faith by which the cove- 
nant is accepted is the gift of God ; and all the good 
works by which Christians continue to keep the 
covenant, originate in that change of character which 
is the fruit of the operation of his Spirit. By the 
conditions of the covenant of grace, therefore, are 
meant, not any circumstances in our character and 
conduct which may be regarded as inducements 
moving God to enter into a new covenant with us, 
but purely those expressions of thankfulness which 
naturally proceed from the persons with whom God 
has made this covenant, which are the effects and 

* Heb. viii. 10. 


evidences of the grace conveyed to their souls, and 
the indispensable qualifications for the complete and 
final participation of the blessings of the covenant. 
With this caution, we scruple not to say that there 
are conditions in the covenant of grace, and we 
press upon Christians the fulfilment of the condi- 
tions on their part : although this is a language 
which some of the first reformers, in their zeal 
against popery, and their solicitude to avoid its er- 
rors, thought it dangerous to hold, and which, un- 
less it be properly explained, still sounds offensive 
in the ears of particular descriptions of men. 

The question concerning the extent of the co- 
venant of grace turns upon points that have been 
already explained.* The difference of opinion be- 
tween the advocates for universal and particular re- 
demption does not respect the number who shall 
be saved. For whether God intended to make the 
covenant of grace with all men, or whether he in- 
tended to make it only with those, whom from the 
beginning he elected, it is allowed, on both sides, 
that they only are saved who accept of the covenant. 


It is one most important circumstance in the con- 
stitution of the covenant of grace, that it was made 
through the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Thence 
arises the term Mediator, in the use of which all 
Christians agree, because it is frequently applied to 

* Book iv. ch. 6. 


him in the new Testament ; but concerning the 
meaning and import of which they differ Avidely. 
Jesus is called in Scripture fMzatryjg, im^it'/h q>iov xa/ 

avd^MTuv, ha8ri%rig x^httovoc^ Kaivrii, vsag, (udiTriz. The WOrd (MitSiTni 

literally means a person in the middle, between two 
parties ; and the fitness of there being a mediator 
of the covenant of grace arises from this, that the 
nature of the covenant implies that the two parties 
were at variance. Those, who hold the Socinian 
principles with regard to the nature of the remedy, 
understand mediator to mean nothing more than a 
messenger sent from God to give assurance of for- 
giveness to his offending creatures. Those, who 
hold the doctrine of the atonement, understand that 
Jesus is called the mediator of the new covenant, 
because he reconciles the two parties, by having ap- 
peased the wrath of God which man had deserved ; 
and by subduing that enmity to God by which their 
hearts were alienated from him.. It is plain that 
this is being a mediator in the strict and proper 
sense of the word ; and there seems to be no reason 
for resting in a meaning less proper and emphatical. 
This sense of the term mediator coincides with the 
meaning of another phrase applied to him, Heb. vii. 

22, where he is called -/.^urrovog diaSyjxrig iyyvog. If he is a 

mediator in the last sense, then he is also syyvogf the 
sponsor, the surety of the covenant. He undertook 
on the part of the Supreme Lawgiver, that the sins 
of those who repent shall be forgiven ; and he ful- 
filled this undertaking, by offering in their stead a 
satisfaction to divine justice. He undertook on their 
part that they should keep the terms of the co- 

* 1 Tim. ii. 5. Heb. viii. 6 ; ix. 15; xii. 24. 


venant ; and he fulfils this undertaking by the in- 
fluence of his Spirit upon their hearts. 

From this high sense of the term mediator, in 
which the general strain of the New Testament 
seems to warrant us to understand that word, there 
arise what are commonly called the three offices, up- 
on account of his holding which, by the designation 
of God, Jesus is emphatically styled the Christ, or the 
anointed. The three offices of Christ are familiar 
to the hearers of the Gospel from the instruction of 
our Catechism : they are generally acceptable as 
subjects of preaching ; and they may be improved 
so as to furnish matter for useful and excellent dis- 
courses. The meaning which we affix to the word 
mediator suggests the following, as the most natural 
order of stating the three offices. The Christ is a 
priest, who offered on the cross a true and perfect 
sacrifice, by which he has purchased forgiveness for 
all that repent : he is a prophet, who publishes 
what the apostle calls " the word of reconciliation," 
or the terms of the new covenant ; and he is a king, 
who establishes his throne in the hearts of his peo- 
ple, inclines them to accept of the covenant, enables 
them to fulfil its terms, and has power to confer 
upon them all its blessings. 

If a mediator be essential to the covenant of grace, 
and if all who have been saved from the time of the 
first transgression were saved by that covenant, it 
follows that the mediator of the new covenant acted 
in that character before he was manifested in the 
flesh. Hence the importance of that doctrine re- 
specting the person of Christ ; that all the com- 
munications which the Almighty condescended to 
hold with the human race were carried on from the 


beginning by this person, that it is he who spake 
to the patriarchs, who gave the law by Moses, and 
who is called in the Old Testament the Angel of 
the covenant.* The views which we have now at- 
tained of the remedy provided for the moral condi- 
tion of the human race, open to us the full impor- 
tance of a doctrine, which manifestly unites in one 
faith all who obtain deliverance from that condition. 
For according to this doctrine, not only did the 
virtue of the blood which he shed as a priest ex- 
tend to the ages past before his manifestation, but 
all the intimations of the new covenant established 
in his blood were given by him as the great pro- 
phet, and the blessings of the covenant were applied 
in every age by the Spirit, which he as the king of 
his people sends forth. 

The Socinians, who consider Jesus as a mere man, 
having no existence till he was born of Mary, neces- 
sarily reject the doctrine now stated. And the 
chiu-ch of Rome, although they admit the divinity 
of our Saviour, yet by the system which they hold 
with regard to the mediation of Christ, agree with 
the Socinians in throwing out of the dispensations 
of the grace of God, that beautiful and complete 
unity which arises from their having been conduct- 
ed by one person. The church of Rome considers 
Christ as mediator, only in respect of his human na- 
ture. As that nature did not exist till he was born 
of Mary, they do not think it possible that he could 
exercise the office of mediator under the Old Testa- 
ment ; and as they admit that a mediator is essen- 
tial to the covenant of grace, they believe that those 

* Book iii. ch. 5. 


who lived under the Old Testament, not enjoying the 
benefit of his mediation, did not obtain complete re- 
mission of sins. They suppose, therefore, that per- 
sons in former times who believed in a Saviour that 
was to come, and who obtained justification with 
God by this faith, were detained after death in a 
place of the infernal regions, which received the name 
of Limhus Patrum ; a kind of prison where they 
did not endure punishment, but remained without 
partaking of the joys of heaven, in earnest expecta- 
tion of the coming of Christ, who, after suffering on 
the cross, descended to hell that he might set them 
free. This fanciful system has no other foundation 
than the slender support, which it appears to receive 
from some obscure passages of Scripture that admit 
of another interpretation. But if Christ acted as the 
mediator of the covenant of grace from the time of 
the first transgression, this system becomes wholly 
unnecessary ; and we may believe, according to the 
general strain of Scripture, and what we account the 
analogy of faith, that all who " died in faith" since 
the world began entered immediately after death 
into that " heavenly country which they desired." 

Although the members of the church of Rome 
adopt the language of Scripture, in which Jesus is 
styled the mediator of the new covenant, they differ 
from all Protestants in acknowledging other media- 
tors ; and the use, which they make of the doctrine 
that Christ is mediator only in his human nature, is 
to justify their admitting those who had no other 
nature to share that office with him. Saints, mar- 
tyrs, and especially the Virgin Mary, are called me- 
diatores secunclarii, because it is conceived that they 
hold this character under Christ, and that, bv virtue 


of his mediation, the superfluity of their merits may 
be applied to procure acceptance with God for our 
imperfect services. Under this character supplica- 
tions and solemn addresses are presented to them ; 
and the mediatores secundarii receive in the church 
of Rome, not only the honour due to eminent virtue, 
but a worsliip and homage which that church wishes 
to vindicate from the charge of idolatry, by calling 
it the same kind of inferior and secondary worship 
which is offered to the man Christ Jesus, who in his 
human nature acted as mediator. 

In opposition to all this, we hold that Jesus Christ 
was qualified to act as mediator by the union be- 
tween his divine and his human nature ; that his 
divine nature gave an infinite value to all that he 
did, rendering it effectual for the purpose of recon- 
ciling us to God, while the condescension by which 
he approached to man, in taking part of flesh and 
blood, fulfilled the gracious intention for which a 
mediator was appointed ; that the introducing any 
other mediator is unnecessary, derives no warrant 
from Scripture, and is derogatory to the honour of 
him who is there called the " one mediator between 
God and men ;" and that as the union of the divine 
to the human nature is the foundation of that wor- 
ship, which in Scripture is often paid to the media- 
tor of the new covenant, this worship does not af- 
ford the smallest countenance to the idolatry and 
will- worship of those, who ascribe divine honours to 
any mortal. 



Prayer is the natural expression of the sentiments 
of a dependent creature. But the dispensation of 
the Gospel, as a covenant of grace, furnishes a 
striking illustration of the obligation to prayer in 
general, the propriety of the several parts of it, 
and the encouragements to the regular perform- 
ance of this duty. The inestimable value of the 
blessings conveyed by this covenant, the vmmerit- 
ed love from which they proceed, and the bright 
display of the divine perfections in the method of 
conferring them, quicken all those feelings of piety 
and gratitude to God, with which it is the privilege 
of the human heart to glow, and call for the most 
devout adoration, and the w^armest thanksgiving. 
The intimate relations by which the covenant of 
grace connects Christians w^ith one another, as well 
as with their common Father, produce intercessions, 
those expressions of benevolence in which they com- 
mend one another to his care. The consciousness 
of that imperfection which is inseparable from hu- 
man nature, and of those sins which we daily com- 
mit, draws forth humble confessions, and supplica- 
tions in the presence of Him, who " is faithful and 
just to forgive us our sins." The sense of our own 
inability to discharge our duty, and the desire of ob- 
taining that heavenly aid which is promised to them 
that ask it, give the form of petition to all our pur- 
poses of obedience ; and the hope of those future 
blessings of the covenant, to which we are conducted 
by that obedience, imparts to the thoughts and affec- 


tions that degree of elevation, which seeks for inter- 
course with heaven. 

There is a vulgar notion concerning prayer, which 
is derogatory to the character of the Almighty, that 
our importunity can extort blessings from him, and 
produce a change in his counsels. The notion is un- 
reasonable, and directly opposite to the principles 
upon which the Calvinistic doctrine of the covenant 
of grace proceeds. Yet every consideration suggest- 
ed by the light of nature, which shows prayer to be 
a duty, is very much enforced by the Calvinistic 
doctrine ; and all the fervour which the Scripture 
recommends in performing the duty appears, upon 
the principles of that doctrine, to be highly reason- 
able, as proceeding from that state of mind, which 
enters into the character of those with whom God has 
made the covenant of grace, as cherishing and im- 
proving that character, as being the preparation for 
their receiving his blessings, and as an indispensable 
condition, which for their sakes he has required. 
Accordingly our Lord, while he corrects different 
errors concerning prayer, which proceed from un- 
worthy conceptions of the Deity, delivers a form of 
prayer so conceived, as to imply that we are to pray 
to God daily, and full of instruction as to the man- 
ner of discharging that duty. This instruction, the 
exposition of which occupies a considerable part of 
the catechism of our church, is unfolded in every 
system of theology. 

The humility and self-abasement, formed by all 
the discoveries of the Gospel, might either restrain 
the mind from approaching the Almighty, or tinc- 
ture all its devotions with a spirit of dejection and 
melancholy, were not this tendency counterbalanced 


by the character under which the mediator of the 
covenant of grace is revealed.. It is said that " he 
maketh intercession for us ;"* he is called " our ad- 
vocate with the Father ;"f and we are commanded 
to pray in his name. if 

We must be careful to separate from our notions 
of the intercession of Christ all those circumstances 
of tears, of earnest crying, and of prostration before 
his Father, which would degrade him to the condi- 
tion of a suppliant, and also every idea of his being 
imcertain with regard to the issue of the applications 
which he makes. The intercession of Christ pro- 
ceeds upon the inexhaustible merit of his sacrifice ; 
it is accomplished by his appearing in the presence 
of God for us, and offering our prayers and services 
to the Father ; and, being the intercession of him 
who has power to give eternal life to as many as he 
will, it cannot fail of being effectual to the purpose, 
of procuring for his people all those blessings which 
he chooses to bestow. The intercession of Christ, 
understood with these qualifications, is agreeable to 
the analogy of the whole scheme of salvation, which 
is uniformly represented as originating in the love 
of the Father, but as reaching us only through the 
mediation of the Son ; and it is obvious to observe 
that a doctrine, which teaches that our prayers are 
heard, and our services accepted, not upon ac- 
count of any thing in us, but purely upon account 
of the righteousness of him, " in whom the Fatller 
is well pleased," while it illustrates the majesty and 
holiness of the Supreme Ruler, affords an encourage- 
ment most graciously accommodated to the infirmi- 

♦ Rom. viii. 34?. t 1 John ii. 1. ; John xvi. 23. 


ties and sentiments of those, for whom Christ " mak- 
eth intercession." 

The nature and the grounds of that entire de- 
pendence upon the Lord Jesus, which Christians are 
everywhere taught to maintain, expose the grossness 
and the folly of those errors which lead the church 
of Rome to address the Virgin Mary, departed saints, 
and angels, as intercessors with God. It is said, in 
extenuation of these errors, that the unrivalled dig- 
nity of the Lord Jesus is preserved by calling him 
mediator primarius, mediator redemptionis^ while 
others are only mediatores secundarii^ mediatores in- 
tercessionis ; and it is alleged by those who address 
to the mediatores intercessionis such words as ora 
pro nobis, that the prayers which they solicit are 
only a continuation in heaven of the intercessions 
which good men offer for one another upon earth. 
But the answer to all these pleas is obvious. The 
Scriptures give no warrant for the distinction be- 
tween mediator p?imarius and mediatores secunda- 
rii. Christ is mediator intercessionis because he is 
mediator redemptio7iis ; and, upon this account, his 
intercession is effectual. The intercessions of Christ- 
ians upon earth are an expression of benevolence — 
of an earnest desire of the happiness of others, called 
forth by scenes which they behold, but not imply- 
ing any presumption, that what others are unwor- 
thy to receive will be given because it is asked by 
us ; whereas to solicit the intercession of the inha- 
bitants of heaven is unmeaning, unless we sup- 
pose that they have a knowledge of our condition, 
and that they have power with God, — that kind of 
merit which can insure their application for us be- 
ing heard. Both parts of this supposition being 


gratuitously assumed, the addresses offered in the 
church of Rome to the mediatores secundarii only 
weaken the sense of dependence upon the mediator 
of the new covenant, the " King of Saints" and the 
head of the " innumerable company of angels," the 
Son of God, through whom Christians " have access 
to the Father ;" and such addresses, after the ex- 
ample of the heathen mythology, divide the atten- 
tion and the worship of Christians amidst a multi- 
tude of inferior beings, to whom, without any war- 
rant, they may choose to ascribe certain degrees of 
power and influence, and thus introduce what the 
apostle calls " will-worship."* 


It is usual for covenants amongst men to be con- 
firmed by certain solemnities. In the simplicity of 
ancient times, the solemnities were monuments or 
large stones erected as a witness of the transaction, 
and meetings at stated times between the parties or 
their descendants, in commemoration of it.f In 
more advanced periods of society, the solemnities 
have become deeds written in a formal style, sealed, 
delivered, and exchanged between the parties at the 
time of the contract, and remaining, till they are 
cancelled, as vouchers of the original transaction. 
As circumcision was ordained as the token and seal 

* Col. ii. 23. t Genesis and Joshua^ passim. 


of the covenant with Abraham, we are led to expect 
that, when the Almighty published the covenant of 
grace by his Son, and invited all nations to enter 
into it, he would, with the same condescension to 
human weakness, grant some confirmation of the 
grace therein manifested, some sensible sign which 
might establish a reliance upon his promise, and 
constitute the ground of a federal act between him 
and his creatures. A great part of the Christian 
world consider this as the intention of Baptism and 
the Lord's Supper, the two solemn rites of our re- 
ligion, which are commonly known by the name of 

This name is nowhere applied to these rites in 
Scripture. Sacrmmentmn, being a word of Latin 
extraction, could not be introduced into theology by 
the original language, in which the books of the 
New Testament were written ; and in all the places 
of the Vulgate, or old Latin translation of the Bible, 
it is put for the Greek word iMuarriPiov. Dr. Campbell, 
in his Preliminary Dissertations to a New Transla- 
tion of the Gospels, has discussed the different ap- 
plications of the words i^vGrri^m and sacramentum ; 
and he has clearly shown that /xuffryj^v always means 
either a secret, something imknown till it was re- 
vealed ; or the latent spiritual meaning of some 
fable, emblem, or type. Now, in both these senses 
fivffrvjPwv is rendered in the Vulgate sacramentuin, al- 
though when we attend to the etymology of the two 
words, they do not appear to correspond. Mtya san 
(Mvffryioiov su6sQs/ag I magnum est sacramentum pietatis : 
TO fxvffrri^iov ruv sTrra adrs^uv, sacramentum septem stellarum ; 
the hidden meaning of the seven stars. But al- 
though Scripture does not warrant the application 


now made of the word sacrament, it has the sanc- 
tion of very ancient practice. As some of the most 
sacred and retired parts of the ancient heathen wor- 
ship were called mysteries, there is reason to think 
that the word [iMdr^ia was early applied to the Lord's 
Supper, which, from the beginning. Christians re- 
garded with much reverence, which, in times of 
persecution, they were obliged to celebrate in pri- 
vate, and from which they were accustomed to ex- 
clude both those who had been guilty of notorious 
sins, and those who had not attained sufficient know- 
ledge. The Latin word sacramentum followed this 
application of the Greek word ; and if Pliny is cor- 
rect in the information he conveys in his letter to 
Trajan, concerning the Christians in the end of the 
first century, his expression may suggest that there 
was conceived to be a peculiar propriety in giving 
this name to the Lord's Supper, from the analogy 
between the engagement to abstain from sin, which 
those who partook of that rite contracted, and the 
military oath of fidelity, which was known in clas- 
sical writers by the name sacramentum. 

It appears, then, that the word, in the sense in 
which it is now used, is an ecclesiastical, not a scrip- 
tural word, and that the amount of that sense is to 
be gathered, not from the original meaning of the 
word, but from the practice of those with whom it 
occurs. For from the etymology nothing more can 
be deduced, than that a sacrament is something, 
either a word or an action, connected with what is 
sacred ; and this is equally true, whether we annex 
to it the Popish sense, the Socinian sense, or the 
sense in which it is understood by the greater 
part of the reformed churches. 


Sacraments are conceived in the church of Rome 
to consist of matter, deriving, from the action of the 
priest in pronouncing certain words, a divine virtue, 
by which grace is conveyed to the soul of every per- 
son who receives them. It is supposed to be neces- 
sary that the priest, in pronouncing the words, has 
the intention of giving to the matter that divine vir- 
tue, otherwise it remains in its original state. On 
the part of those who receive the sacrament, it is re- 
quired that they be free from any of those sins call- 
ed in the church of Rome mortal ; but it is not re- 
quired of them to exercise any good disposition, to 
possess faith, or to resolve that they shall amend 
their lives. For such is conceived to be the physi- 
cal virtue of a sacrament, administered by a priest 
with a good intention, that, unless when it is oppos- 
ed by the obstacle of a mortal sin, the very act of 
receiving it is sufficient. This act was called, in the 
language of the schools, opus operatum, the work 
done, independently of any disposition of mind at- 
tending the deed ; and the superiority of the sacra- 
ments of the New Testament, over the sacraments 
of the Old, was thus expressed, that the sacraments 
of the Old Testament were effectual ex opere oper- 
mitis, from the piety and faith of the persons to whom 
they were administered ; while the sacraments of the 
New Testament convey grace, ex opere operato, from 
their own intrinsic virtue, and an immediate physical 
influence upon the mind of him who receives them. 

The arguments opposed to this doctrine by the 
first reformers will readily occur to your minds, 
from the simple exposition of it which I have given. 
It represents the sacraments as a mere charm, the 
use of which, being totally disjoined from every men- 


tal exercise, cannot be regarded as a reasonable ser^ 
vice. It gives men the hope of receiving, by the 
use of a charm, the full participation of the grace of 
God, although they continue to indulge that very 
large class of sins, to which the accommodating mo- 
rality of the church of Rome extends the name of 
venial ; and yet it makes this high privilege entirely 
dependent upon the intention of another, who, al- 
though he performs all the outward acts which be- 
long to the sacrament, may, if he chooses, withhold 
the communication of that physical virtue, without 
which the sacrament is of none avail. 

The Socinian doctrine concerning the nature of 
the sacraments is founded upon a sense of the ab- 
surdity and danger of the popish doctrine and a so- 
licitude to avoid any approach to it, and runs into 
the opposite extreme. It is conceived that the sa- 
craments are not essentially distinct from any other 
rites or ceremonies ; that as they consist of a sym- 
bolical action, in which something external and ma- 
terial is employed to represent what is spiritual and 
invisible, they may by this address to the senses 
be of use in reviving the remembrance of past events, 
and in cherishing pious sentiments ; but that their 
effect is purely moral, and that they contribute by 
that moral effect to the improvement of the indivi* 
dual in the same manner with reading the Scrip- 
tures, and many other exercises of religion. It is 
admitted, indeed, by the Socinians, that the sacra- 
ments are of further advantage to the whole society 
of Christians, as being the solemn badges by which 
the disciples of Jesus are discriminated from other 
men, and the appointed method of declaring that 
faith in Christ, by the public profession of which 


Christians minister to the improvement of one an- 
other. But in these two points, the moral effect 
upon the individual, and the advantage to society, is 
contained all that a Socinian holds concerning the 
general nature of the sacraments. 

This doctrine is infinitely more rational than the 
Popish, more friendly to the interests of morality, 
and consequently more honourable to the religion of 
Christ. But, like all the other parts of the Socinian 
system, it represents that religion in the simple view 
of being a lesson of righteousness, and loses sight of 
that character of the Gospel, which is meant to be 
implied in calling it a covenant of grace. The 
greater part of Protestants, therefore, following an 
expression of the apostle, Rom. iv. 11, when he is 
speaking of circumcision, consider the sacraments 
as not only signs, but also seals of the covenant of 

Those who apply this phrase to the sacraments 
of the New Testament admit every part of the So- 
cinian doctrine concerning the nature of sacraments, 
and are accustomed to employ that doctrine to cor- 
rect those popish errors upon this subject, which are 
not yet eradicated from the minds of many of the 
people. But although they admit that the Socinian 
doctrine is true as far as it goes, they consider it as 
incomplete. For while they hold that the sacra- 
ments yield no benefit to those, upon whom the 
signs employed in them do not produce the proper 
moral effect, they regard these signs as intended to 
represent an inward invisible grace, which proceeds 
from him by whom they are appointed, and as 
pledges that that grace will be conveyed to all in 
whom the moral effect is produced. The sacra- 


ments, therefore, in their opinion, constitute federal 
acts, in which the persons who receive them with 
proper dispositions, solemnly engage to fulfil their 
part of the covenant, and God confirms his promise 
to them in a sensible manner ; not as if the promise 
of God were of itself insufficient to render any event 
certain, but because this manner of exhibiting the 
blessings promised gives a stronger impression of 
the truth of the promise, and conveys to the mind an 
assurance that it will be fulfilled. 

According to this account of the sacraments, the 
express institution of God is essentially requisite to 
constitute their nature ; and in this respect sacra- 
ments are distinguished from what may be called 
the ceremonies of religion. Ceremonies are in their 
nature arbitrary ; and different means may be em- 
ployed by different persons with success, according 
to their constitution, their education, and their cir- 
cumstances, to cherish the sentiments of devotion, 
and to confirm good purposes. But no rite which 
is not ordained by God can be conceived to be a seal 
of his promise, or the pledge of any event that de- 
pends upon his good pleasure. Hence that any rite 
may come up to our idea of a sacrament, we require 
in it not merely a vague and general resemblance 
between the external matter which is the visible sub- 
stance of the rite, and the thing thereby signified, 
but also words of institution, and a promise by which 
the two are connected together : and hence we reject 
five of the seven sacraments that are numbered in 
the church of Rome, because in some of the five we 
do not find any matter, without which there is not 
that sign which enters into our definition of a sacra- 
ment ; and in others we do not find any promise con- 


iiecting the matter used with the grace said to be 
thereby signified, although upon this connexion the 
essence of a sacrament depends. 

Burnet's exposition of the 25th Article shows upon 
what grounds, and with what strict propriety, the 
church of England says, " those five commonly call- 
ed sacraments, that is to say, confirmation, penance, 
orders, matrimony, and extreme unction, are not to 
be counted for sacraments of the Gospel, being such 
as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the 
apostles ; partly are states of life allowed in the 
Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of sacra- 
ments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper ; for that 
they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordain- 
ed by God." In Baptism and the Lord's Supper, 
to which the name of sacraments is, according to our 
definition, limited, we find all which that definition 
requires. In each there is matter, an external visi- 
ble substance ; and there is also a positive institu- 
tion authorising that substance to be used with cer- 
tain words in a religious rite. And we think that 
both from the nature of the institution, and from 
the manner in which each sacrament is mentioned 
in other places of the New Testament, the two are 
not barely signs of invisible grace, or badges of the 
Christian profession, but were intended by him who 
appointed them to be pledges of that grace, and seals 
of the covenant by which it is conveyed. 

Erskine's Dissertations. 

Macknight's Preliminary Dissertations. 

Leechman on Prayer. 





The washings and sprinklings, which formed part 
of the religious ceremonies of all nations, arose pro- 
bably from a consciousness of impurity, and an opi- 
nion that innocence was acceptable to the gods ; and 
they were originally intended, on the part of the 
worshippers, as a profession of their purpose to ab- 
stain, in future, from the pollutions which they had 
contracted. Those who were initiated into the mys- 
teries of the heathen religion bathed, before their 
initiation, in a particular stream, where they were 
supposed to leave all their previous errors and de- 
filements, and from which they entered pure into the 
belief of new opinions, and the participation of sa- 
cred rites. When any inhabitants of the countries 
adjoining to JMea turned from the worship of idols, 
and, professing their faith in the God of Israel, de- 
sired to be numbered as his servants among the pro- 
selytes to the law of Moses, they were baptized ; 
and those who had formerly been held in abhorrence 
were, by this ceremony, admitted into a certain de- 
gree of communion with the peculiar people of God. 
When John appeared preaching in the land of Ju- 
dea, he came baptizing, and his baptism was empha- 


tically called the baptism of repentance, because the 
substance of his preaching was, " Repent ye, for the 
kingdom of heaven is at hand."* The people who 
** went out to him and were baptized, confessing 
their sins," had been accustomed to wash from the 
errors of idolatry those who became proselytes to 
their law. But they themselves had need of wash- 
ing, before they were admitted into the kingdom of 
the Messiah ; and his days were the time of the ful- 
filment of that word which God spake by the mouth 
of Ezekiel : " Then will I sprinkle clean water 
upon you, and ye shall be clean ; from all your fil- 
thiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you."f 
In accommodation to this general practice, and to 
these peculiar opinions of the Jews, Jesus, as soon 
as he assumed the character of " a teacher sent from 
God," employed his apostles to baptize those who 
came to him : and having condescended, in this re- 
spect, to the usage of the times while he remained 
upon earth, he introduced baptism into the last com- 
mission which he gave his apostles, in a manner 
Vv^hich seems to intimate that he intended it to be the 
initiatory right of his universal religion. Yio^zuk^ng ow 

(jjaOrirrjijaTi 'ttccvtix tol shrj, /Sa-rr/^ovrsg avTOvg. But in Order tO 

render it a distinguishing rite, by which his disciples 
should be separated from the disciples of any other 
teacher who might choose to baptize, he added these 

words, sig TO ovo,'xa,rov Uar^ogxai rou 'Tio'o %ai rov ay/ov Unv/xa'Tog.'!^ 

Those who were baptized among the heathen were 
baptized in certain mysteries. The Jews are said 
by the apostle Paul to have been " baptized unto 
Moses," at the time when they followed him through 
the Red Sea, as the servant of God sent to be their 

* Mark. i. 4. t Ezek. xxxvi. 25. .-j; Matt, xxviii. 19- 


leader.* Those who went out to John " were bap- 
tized unto John's baptism," i, e, into the expectation 
of the person whom John announced, and into re- 
pentance of those sins which John condemned. | 
Christians are " baptized into the name of the Fa- 
ther, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," because in this 
expression is implied that whole system of truth 
which the disciples of Christ believe ; into the name 
of the Father, the one true and living God whom 
Christians profess to serve ; of the Son, that divine 
person revealed in the New Testament, whom the 
Father sent to be the Saviour of the world ; of the 
Holy Ghost, the divine person also revealed there as 
the comforter, the sanctifier, and the guide of Chris- 

As all who were baptized at the first appearance 
of Christianity had been educated in idolatry, or had 
known only that preparatory dispensation which the 
Jews enjoyed, it was necessary that they should 
be instructed in the meaning of that solemn expres- 
sion which accompanied their Christian baptism. 
Accordingly, the practice of the apostles in adminis- 
tering baptism, judging by the few instances which 
the book of Acts has recorded, corresponds to the 
order intimated in the commission of our Lord, 
where the instruction that makes men disciples is 
supposed to precede baptism. Thus to the minister 
of the queen of Ethiopia Philip first " preached 
Jesus ;" he then said, '* if thou believest with all 
thine heart, thou mayest be baptized ;" and when 
the man answered, " I believe that Jesus Christ is 
the Son of God, Philip baptized him."t The follow- 

* 1 Cor. X. 2. t Acts xix. .3. 


ing phrases, which occur in diiferent epistles, " the 
form of sound words, the principles of the doctrine 
of Christ, the doctrine of baptism," probably mean 
some such short summary of Christian doctrine, as 
we know was used in the age immediately succeed- 
ing that of the apostles, for the instruction of persons 
who came to be baptized. Peter's joining to bap- 
tism, 1 Pet. iii. 21, 6uvsih<^sMg aya&rig £'3'£owr^,aa ijg @iov 
seems to imply, that in the apostolic age questions 
were always proposed to them. And this is con- 
firmed by the expression, Heb. x. 22, " having our 
bodies washed with pure water, let us hold fast the 
profession of our faith :" the most natural interpre- 
tation of which words is, that persons at their bap- 
tism were required to make a declaration of their 
faith ; and we know that, if not from the beginning, 
yet in very early times, there was joined with this 
declaration a renunciation of former vices, and a pro- 
mise to lead a good life. 

It appears from this deduction that baptism was, 
in its original institution, a solemn method of as- 
suming the profession of the Christian religion, a 
mark of distinction between the disciples of Jesus, 
and those who held any other system of faith. So- 
cinus and some of his followers, confining themselves 
to this single view of baptism, consider it ias an in- 
stitution highly proper at the first planting of the 
Christian Church, which was formed out of idolaters 
and Jews, but as superseded in all Christian countries 
by the establishment and general profession of Christ- 
ianity. For it appears to them that what was in- 
tended merely for the purpose of being a discrimi- 
nating rite, ceases of course, in circumstances where 
there is no need for a discrimination ; and that the 


observance of it is of real importance only in those 
cases which we very rarely behold when persons 
who had been educated in another religion are con- 
verted to Christianity. Although the modern Soci- 
nians have not paid so much respect to the opinion 
of Socinus as to lay aside the use of baptism, yet 
their sentiments upon this point are much the same 
with his. " They would make no great difficulty," 
to use the words of Dr. Priestley, " of omitting it en- 
tirely in Christian families ; but they do not think 
it of importance enough to act otherwise than their 
ancestors have done before them, in a matter of so 
great indifference." 

The Quakers are the only sect of Christians who 
make no use of baptism ; and their practice in this 
matter is only a particular application of their lead- 
ing principles. It appears to them that, as it is the 
distinguishing character of the Gospel to be the dis- 
pensation of the Spirit, and as every Christian is 
under the immediate guidance of an inward light, 
all the ordinances of former times only presignified 
that effusion of the Holy Ghost, which, in the age 
of the Gospel, was to render the further use of them 
unnecessary. When John the Baptist says, ** I in- 
deed baptize you with water unto repentance, but 
he that cometli after me, shall baptize you with the 
Holy Ghost, and with fire," it appears to the Quak- 
ers, that John, by this contrast, means to represent 
his own baptism as emblematical of the baptism of 
Jesus, and to give notice that the baptism by water, 
which was the emblem, should cease as soon as the 
baptism with the Holy Ghost, which was the thing 
signified, should commence. The baptism with wa- 
ter, practised by the apostles of Jesus, they regard 


as merely an accommodatiorj to the prejudices of the 
times, till the spiritual nature of the Gospel was un- 
derstood ; and they consider the miraculous effusion 
of the gifts of the Spirit upon the apostles at the day 
of Pentecost, which our Lord himself calls their be- 
ing baptized with the Holy Ghost, and the visible 
descent of the Holy Ghost upon some of those who 
were baptized by the apostles, as affording the true 
interpretation of the word baptism, as it occurs in 
the discourses of our Lord. Hence they conclude 
that when he says in the commission given to his 
apostles, " Go, make disciples of all nations, baptiz- 
ing them," he does not mean literally to command 
his apostles to plunge in water the bodies of all who 
should become his disciples, but he only uses a figu- 
rative expression, borrowed from the ancient emble- 
matical practice, for that communication of the 
Spirit which in all ages was to form the characteris- 
tical distinction of his disciples. 

Other Christians do not find this reasoning suffi- 
cient to warrant the conclusion which the Quakers 
draw from it : that the use of baptism is now to be 
laid aside. They do not admit the general princi- 
ple that all emblems and symbols become unnecessary, 
as soon as the thing signified is come ; for this prin- 
ciple, if followed out to its full extent, u^ould anni- 
hilate all religious ceremionies. With regard to the 
particular case of baptism, they consider the expres- 
sion used in the commission given by our Lord, as 
interpreted to all Christians by the practice of 
baptizing with water, which the Apostles had used 
before they received the commission ; which they 
continued to use after it ; and v/hich, upon their au- 
thority, and after their example, was invariably fol- 



lowed in the primitive church. In the commission, 
there do not appear to be any circumstances suggesting 
that the command was not to be universally obeyed, 
according to that literal meaning which the apostles 
seem to have given it ; or that there is any limita- 
tion of time, after which what was at first under- 
stood literally was to receive a figurative interpre- 
tation ; and accordingly, all other Christians, besides 
the Quakers, observe what they consider the explicit 
direction of our Lord, by employing baptism, in all 
situations of the church, as the initiatory rite of his 

In one circumstance respecting the mode of admi- 
nistering baptism, the greater part of Christians have 
departed from the primitive practice. Both sprink- 
ling and immersion are implied in the word /Sa-rr/^w ; 
both were used in the religious ceremonies of the 
Jews, and both may be considered as significant of 
the purpose of baptism, and as corresponding to the 
words in which the Scripture represents the spirit- 
ual blessings thereby signified. There is reason to 
believe that immersion was more commonly practis- 
ed at the beginning. But as the numbers said in 
the Book of Acts to have been baptized at one time,* 
and the circumstances in which they received bap- 
tism, seem to suggest that even in those days, sprink- 
ling was at some times used, the greater part of 
Christians have found themselves at liberty, in a 
matter very far from being essential, to adopt that 
practice which is most convenient, and most suited 
to the habits of colder climates. 

To the administration of baptism, there is com- 

* Acts ii. 4J. 


monly annexed, after the custom of the Jews when 
a child was circumcised, the designing the person 
baptized by a particular name. This is manifestly 
an addition to the directions given by our Lord, and 
consequently is not to be regarded as any part of 
baptism. A name might be given to a person at 
any oth^r time as well as then. But the practice, 
of assuming the name by which we are commonly 
called at the time when we are initiated as the dis- 
ciples of Christ, may serve to remind us of the obli- 
gations implied in the solemnity with which that 
name was given. 


All who use baptism, consider it as the initiatory 
rite of Christianity, the solemn profession of the 
Christian faith. But this account of baptism, al- 
though true, appears to the greater part of Christians 
to be incomplete ; and the grounds upon which they 
entertain a higher opinion of it are of the following 

Baptizing into the name of the Father, the Son, 
and the Holy Ghost, while it certainly implies a pro- 
fession of faith in them, also exhibits these three per- 
sons under certain characters, and in certain rela- 
tions, which give an assurance of the communica- 
tion of blessings to those who are thus baptized. 
Agreeably to this exhibition made in the form of 
baptism, are such expressions as these, " he that be- 


lieveth and is baptized shall be saved :" * " baptism 
saves us :"f " be baptized for the remission of sins :"t- 
expressions which could not have been used unless 
there was an intimate connexion between this rite 
and the two characteristical blessings of the Gospel, 
viz. forgiveness of sins, and the communication of 
inward grace. The apostle Paul, Rom. vi. 4, 5, 6, 
illustrates this connexion by an allusion drawn from 
the ancient method of administering baptism. The 
immersion in water of the bodies of those who were 
baptized is an emblem of that death unto sin, by 
which the conversion of Christians is generally ex- 
pressed : the rising out of the water, the breathing 
the air again after having been for some time in an- 
other element, is an emblem of that new life, which 
Christians by their profession are bound, and by the 
power of their religion are enabled to lead. The 
time during which they remained under the water 
is a kind of temporary death, after the image of the 
death of Christ, during which they deposited under 
the stream the sins of which the old man was com- 
posed : when they emerged from the water, they 
rose, after the image of his resurrection, to a life of 
righteousness here, and a life of glory hereafter. 
Here is a significant representation both of what the 
baptized persons engaged to do, and also of the 
grace by which their sins were forgiven, and the 
strength communicated to their souls : so that the 
action of baptism, as interpreted by an apostle, rises 
from being a profession of faith, a mere external 
rite, to be a federal act, by which the mutual stipu- 
lations of the covenant of grace are confirmed. Ac- 

* Mark xvi. 16. t 1 Peter iii. 21. J Acts ii. 38. 


cordingly, the same apostle represents baptism m 
coming in place of circumcision. For to the Gala- 
tians, to whom he thus writes, v. 2, 3, " I Paul, say 
unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall pro- 
fit you nothing : for I testify again to every man 
that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the 
whole law ;" he says, iii. 27, " as many of you, as 
have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." 
And to the Colossians, ii. 11, 12, he proves that cir- 
cumcision was no longer necessary, by this argu- 
ment, that their being buried with Christ in bap- 
tism was emblematical of that change of life, and 
that internal purity, which the rite of circumcision 
was meant to signify to the Jews. But the sign of 
circumcision is called by the apostle, Rom. iv. 11, 
" a seal of the righteousness of the faith which 
Abraham had," i. e, a seal of his faith being counted 
to him for righteousness ; and as the use of the sign 
was appointed for his posterity, it was to them also 
a seal of the covenant, confirming, to all who receiv- 
ed it, their share in the promise made to Abraham. 
If baptism, therefore, supply under the Gospel the 
place of circumcision under the law, and bring 
Christians under the same obligations to Christ, as 
circumcision brought the Jews to the law, it must 
also imply the same security and pledge for the 
blessings conveyed by Christ. 

These are the grounds upon which the greater 
part of Christians think the Socinian account of bap- 
tism incomplete. They agree with the Socinians in 
considering it as a solemn method of assuming the 
profession of Christianity ; as a ceremony intended 
to produce a moral effect upon the minds of those 
who partake of it, or who behold it administered to 


others, and as in this respect most salutary and use- 
ful. But they consider it as possessing, besides both 
these characters, the higher character of a sacrament, 
an outward sign of an invisible grace, a seal of the 
new covenant. 

However well founded this opinion may appear to 
be, much care is necessary to separate it from the 
errors of the church of Rome, who, applying to bap- 
tism their general doctrine concerning the nature of 
the sacraments, run into another extreme more dan- 
gerous and more irrational than the Socinian. 

The church of Rome considers baptism, when ad- 
ministered by a priest having a good intention, as of 
itself applying the merits of Christ to the person 
baptized, with an efficacy sufficient to infuse into hig 
mind a new character. Hence they deduce the ab- 
solute necessity of baptism in order to salvation, and 
the propriety of its being administered to a child who 
appears to be dying by any person present, if a priest 
is not at hand. Hence too their distinction between 
sins committed before and after baptism. The cor- 
ruption inherited from Adam, and all the actual 
transgressions which a person may have committed 
before his baptism, are, it is said, completely annihi- 
lated by this sacrament ; so that if the most aban- 
doned person were to receive it for the first time in 
articido mortis, all his sins would be washed away, 
and he would enter undefiled into another world : 
but all sins committed after baptism, after the infu- 
sion of that grace by the conveyance of which this 
sacrament constitutes a new character, must be ex- 
piated by the sacrament of penance. Some of them, 
however, may be of such a kind as nothing can ex- 
piate. In this way the church of Rome contrives 


to magnify the power of both sacraments, to find 
room for each without detracting from the other, 
and at the same time to keep the people in a conti- 
nual dependence upon itself, by an uncertainty with 
regard to the extent of the remission of sins. 

Many Christians, who do not hold the opinions of 
that church, seem to approach to them in what they 
say of the immediate effect of baptism. They un- 
derstand the words of our Lord to Nicodemus, " ex- 
cept a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he 
cannot enter into the kingdom of God," as declaring 
that no person can be admitted to heaven who has 
not been baptized ; and from the language of Paul, 
Titus iii. 6, "he saved us by the washing of regen- 
eration and renewing of the Holy Ghost," they con- 
clude that a renovation of mind accompanies the act 
of baptism. Hence Augustine made a distinction 
between those who were regenerated and those who 
were predestinated. He maintained that all who re- 
ceived baptism were regenerated or born again, so as 
to be delivered from that corruption which the child- 
ren of Adam inherit : but that unless they were pre- 
destinated, they did not persevere in that state to 
which they were regenerated. Many of the Luthe- 
ran churches have not departed so far from the doc- 
trine of the church of Rome concerning baptism, as 
to renounce this distinction, but place the efficacy of 
the sacrament in a regeneration, by which faith is 
actually conveyed to the soul of an infant ; and by 
consequence they hold baptism to be indispensably 
necessary. It is a remnant of the same doctrine in 
the minds of the people in this country, that pro- 
duces the horror which they feel at the thought of a 
child dying unbaptized, or even living for a consi- 


derable time in that state. The liturgy, too, of the 
church of England, which, being formed soon after 
the Reformation, wisely studied to depart as little as 
possible from the ideas generally entertained, seems 
to proceed in this point on the language of Augus- 
tine. For it is said in the Catechism, that by bap- 
tism they who were " by nature born in sin are 
made the children of grace ;" and in the office for 
baptism thanks are given to God, " that it hath pleas- 
ed him to regenerate this infant with his Holy 
Spirit." Yet from both Burnet's Exposition of the 
thirty-nine Articles, and Seeker s Lectures on the 
Catechism, books which are considered as standards 
in England, and which are useful to all clergymen, 
it appears that the church of England, far from ap- 
proaching to the Popish idea of a charm wrought by 
baptism, agrees with us in holding the rational doc- 
trine common to all the reformed churches with re- 
gard to the eifect of this sacrament. This rational 
doctrine, which lies in the middle between the Popish 
and Socinian systems, may be thus shortly stated. 

It is understood that all the external privileges 
and means of improvement, which belong to the 
members of the Christian church, are enjoyed by 
every person who has been baptized according to the 
institution of Christ ; and it is hoped that every per- 
son, who by the outward act is entitled to the out- 
ward advantages of baptism, will also partake of the 
inward grace. At the same time, while we judge 
thus charitably of our brethren, we learn from the 
words of the apostle, Peter iii. 21, " that the putting 
away of the filth of the flesh" in baptism, the mere 
act of washing, does not save any person, unless it 
be accompanied with " the answer of a good con- 


science towards God." These words are directly 
opposite to the Popish idea of baptism working as a 
charm ; and they seem to direct us to apply to this 
rite our general idea of the nature of a sacrament, 
by considering baptism as a federal act, in which 
those who make the sponsion with sincerity on their 
part, receive a pledge and security that the blessings 
exhibited shall be conveyed to their souls. We con- 
ceive that these blessings are not the annihilation of 
past sins, and the immediate infusion of a new cha- 
racter ; but the forgiveness of all sins of which they 
repent, and those continual supplies of grace, which 
are necessary to keep their souls from evil. We 
make no distinction, therefore, as to the efficacy of 
baptism, between sins committed before, and sins 
committed after the administration of it. We think 
that the sin against the Holy Ghost, and a total 
apostasy from Christianity are unpardonable, not 
because they are committed after baptism, but be- 
cause the very nature of these sins excludes that 
repentance without which they cannot be forgiven. 
We consider justification by faith, through the 
righteousness of Christ, as including a right to the 
remission of every sin that is repented of, as well as 
a deliverance from the curse entailed upon the pos- 
terity of Adam ; and we regard baptism as by no 
means the physical instrument of that justification, 
but only as a seal of it vouchsafed to us by God. 
Hence, although we account it a presumptuous sin 
to despise the seal, yet, as the remission of sins rests 
upon the promise of God in Christ, we do not ac- 
count the seal so indispensably necessary, as to ren- 
der the promise void to those who have not the 
means of receiving baptism according to the original 


institution. We think, that if the words of our 
Lord to Nicodemus have any reference to baptism, 
they only mean that a man does not bear the pro- 
fession of a Christian, which is called " entering 
into the kingdom of God," unless he submits to the 
rite appointed by the author of Christianity. We 
think, that when the apostle calls baptism " the 
washing of regeneration," he only employs a phra- 
seology suggested by the sacramental relation be- 
tween the sign and the thing signified ; that as 
circumcision is called the covenant,* because it was 
the sign of the covenant, so baptism receives a name 
from that which is certainly conveyed to all, who 
perform their part in this federal act. We think, 
in the last place, that our Lord guards us against 
supposing that baptism is essential to salvation ; for, 
when he says, Mark xvi. 16, " he that believeth and 
is baptized shall be saved ; but he that believeth not 
shall be damned ;" he teaches, in the first clause, 
that baptism does not save us unless we believe ; 
and, by omitting the mention of baptism in the se- 
cond clause, he seems to intimate that the want of 
it is not to be put upon a footing with the want of 


To the view now given of the nature of this sacra- 
ment, there seems to arise an insurmountable objec- 
tion from the practice of infant baptism. If baptism 

* Acts vii. 8. Gen. xvii. IS. 


were merely a discriminating badge, we might con- 
ceive, according to the view which Dr. Priestley- 
gives of this subject, that when a father brings his 
children in their earliest days to receive that badge, 
he exercises the patria potestas. If baptism were a 
charm communicating a certain virtue which might 
be received by a child as well as a man, we might 
conceive its being early administered to be import- 
ant for the improvement of the moral character, 
and necessary for salvation in case of an untimely 
death. But if baptism be a federal act, there seems 
to be the strongest reason for its being delayed till 
the party, upon whose sponsion its efficacy with re- 
gard to himself entirely depends, shall understand 
the nature of the sponsion. The intrinsic force of 
this argument against infant baptism appears to re- 
ceive an accession of strength from its being observed, 
that all those, whose baptism is explicitly mention- 
ed in Scripture, were persons capable of making 
that confession of faith, which our account of the 
ordinance implies. To the sect founded by Mun- 
zer, about the time of the Reformation, the practice 
appeared blameworthy for this further reason, that 
it admitted into the church of Christ, persons of 
whose future life no certain judgment could be form- 
ed. They were accustomed, therefore, to delay this 
solemn act of admission into the church till that ad- 
vanced period of life, when the former behaviour of 
a person might be supposed to afford satisfying evi- 
dence of his being worthy of that privilege : and 
they received the name of Anabaptists, because, con- 
sidering early baptism as premature, they rebaptized 
those members of other Christian societies whom 
they admitted into their communion. 


The controversy concerning infant baptism has 
been discussed in many large treatises, and conti- 
nues to be agitated with much keenness between the 
several branches of the ancient Anabaptists, and 
those who defend the established practice. The 
heads of the argument for that practice may be stated 
in a short compass. 

God said to Abraham, " every man-child among 
you that is eight days old shall be circumcised."* 
By this command circumcision, which was the ini- 
tiatory rite of the Abrahamic covenant, and which 
is declared by Paul to be the sign and seal of that 
covenant,! was administered to infants. If the co- 
venant of grace be the same in substance with the 
Abrahamic covenant, and if baptism comes in place 
of circumcision, the presumption is, that Jesus, by 
the general words, " make disciples of all nations, 
baptizing them," meant that baptism also should be 
administered to infants. This presumption might 
indeed be destroyed by an express prohibition, or by 
a practice in Scripture directly opposite. But so 
far from any prohibition being given, there are many 
expressions in Scripture, which, although they 
would not of themselves warrant infant baptism, 
seem to intimate that the Jewish practice is to be 
followed. When Jesus, Mark x. 14, says to his dis- 
ciples, who were rebuking those that brought young 
children to him, " suffer the little children to come 
unto me, and forbid them not ; for of such is 
the kingdom of God," his expression is calculated to 
mislead, if the dispensation of the Gospel was, in 
this respect, to be distinguished from the Mosaic, 

* Gen. xvii. 10, 12. t Rom. iv. 11. 


that it was not to comprehend little children. When 
Peter says, Acts ii. 38, 39, " Be baptized every one 
of you in the name of Jesus Christ ; for the promise 
is unto you and to your children," he is speaking to 
Jews, who knew that the promise of Abraham was 
to them and to their children, and who would infer 
from his words that the blessings of the Gospel and 
baptism, which they were exhorted to receive as the 
seal of those blessings, v/ere no less extensive. And 
. an expression of the apostle, 1 Cor. vii. 14, " now 
are your children holy," seems to imply, that 
amongst Christians, as amongst Jews, there is a 
communication of the privileges of believers to their 
children. In conformity to this principle, we read 
that the apostles baptized those who believed, and 

their household, Acts Xvi. 33, sQaTnad/i avrog xai o/ avrou 

mvTsg, We have reason to think that infant baptism 
was practised in very early ages of the Christian 
church ; and, although many ideas concerning the 
indispensable necessity of baptism which we do not 
hold, may have contributed at different times to con- 
tinue this practice, yet the principles upon which it 
rests are so universally acknowledged by Christians, 
that, with the exception of the different branches of 
Anabaptists, it has been uniformly observed. 

It cannot be supposed by any reasonable person, 
that infants, at the time of their baptism, are brought 
vuider an obligation by an act which they do not 
understand. And yet to perform the act, and to re- 
hearse the words without any corresponding obliga- 
tion, would have the appearance of making baptism 
a charm. On this account, as under the Jewish law 
parents, through whom their children inherited the 
blessings of the covenant, brought them to be cir- 


cumcised, so Christian parents originally brought 
their children to baptism ; and being accustomed to 
engage for them in many civil transactions, they 
were accustomed also in this solemn action to make 
those declarations, which it was supposed the chil- 
dren would have made had they been possessed of 
understanding. When the parents were dead, or 
were incapable of acting, other persons appeared as 
sureties for the children, and there was thus intro- 
duced the practice, observed in the church of Eng- 
land, and in many other churches, of the children 
being presented by godfathers and godmothers, who 
are considered as sureties in addition to the parents. 
Our church, following out the dictates of nature, 
and the ideas upon v/hich the children of those who 
believe are admitted to baptism, always requires the 
parents, unless they are disqualified, to present their 
children ; and the nature of the sponsion made by 
them in this presentation is different from that pre- 
scribed in the church of England. There the god- 
fathers and godmothers promise, in the name of the 
infant, " that he will renounce the devil and all 
his works, and constantly believe God's holy word, 
and obediently keep his commandments." With us, 
the parents do not make any promise for the child, 
but they promise for themselves, that nothing shall 
be wanting on their part to engage the child to un- 
dertake, at some future time, that obligation which 
he cannot then understand. The practice of our 
church, then, leads us to regard the baptism of in- 
fants as a provision for perpetuating the church of 
Christ, and transmitting his religion to the latest 
generations. It is a privilege- v/hich children, born 
of Christian parents, enjoy, that their receiving the 


most important of all instructions, a pious and vir- 
tuous education, is not left merely to discretion or 
natural affection, but is bound upon their parents 
by a solemn vow ; and whatever other attention 
parents may bestow upon the health, the improve- 
ment, and advancement of their children, they are 
guilty of impiety if they do not fulfil this vow, by 
being careful to afford them every opportunity for 
acquiring just notions and favourable impressions of 

In whatever manner infant-baptism has been ad- 
ministered, it rests with the children, after having 
enjoyed the advantages which flow from the prac- 
tice, to confirm this early dedication. To give them 
a solemn opportunity of taking the vows of that 
covenant, of which, in their infancy, they received 
the seal, it was customary, from a very early period, 
for those who had been baptized in infancy, to be 
brought, at a certain age, to the bishop or minister, 
to give an account of the faith, in which, by that 
time, they had been instructed, and on declaring their 
adherence to that faith, to be dismissed with his 
blessing. From this practice arose that ceremony, 
known in the church of England by the name of 
confirmation, in which baptized persons, being come 
to the years of discretion, renew the vow made in 
their name at their baptism, ratifying and confirm- 
ing the same in their own persons, and acknowledg- 
ing themselves bound to believe, and to do all those 
things which their god-fathers and god-mothers 
then undertook for them. After this they kneel in 
order before the bishop, who, laying his hand sever- 
ally upon the head of every one of them, offers a 
short prayer. The church of England agrees with 


US in thinking that there is no warrant for consider- 
ing confirmation, according to the doctrine of the 
church of Rome, as a sacrament ; for there is no 
matter, the imposition of hands being only a gesture 
designing a particular person, and significant of good- 
will ; there are no words appointed by God to be 
used in performing this action ; and there is no pro- 
mise of a special blessing. The church of England 
differs from us in considering confirmation, as not 
only authorized, but recommended by the actions of 
Peter and John. Being sent down by the body of 
the apostles to Samaria, they laid their hands upon 
those whom Philip had baptized in that city ; after 
which action, accompanied with prayer, these persons 
received the Holy Ghost. It appears to us, that an ac- 
tion of the apostles, who had the power of conferring 
extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, does not form, with- 
out a particular command, a precedent for Christ- 
ians in succeeding ages ; and as the primitive salutary 
practice, which has been mentioned, was laid aside by 
some of the first reformers, upon account of the corrup- 
tions which it had been the occasion of introducing in- 
to the church of Rome, we do not feel ourselves bound 
to revive it. At the same time, Calvin expresses a 
wish that it were restored ; and we are very far 
from condemning confirmation as practised in the 
church of England. Although we account it a cere- 
mony merely of human institution, we think it such 
a ceremony as the rulers of every Christian society 
are entitled to appoint, according to their views of 
what may best promote the edification of those com- 
mitted to their charge ; and, as we have no such 
ceremony, we endeavour to supply the want of it, 
in the manner which appears to us effectual for the 


same purpose, and agreeable to the directions of 
Scripture. We think ourselves bound to exercise a 
continued inspection over the Christian education of 
those who have been baptized ; that, as far as our 
authority or exertions can be of any avail, parents 
may not neglect to fulfil their vow. And when 
young persons partake, for the first time, of the 
Lord's supper, we are careful to impress upon their 
minds a sense of the solemnity of that action, and to 
lead them to consider themselves as then making 
that declaration of faith, and entering into those 
engagements, which would have accompanied their 
baptism had it been delayed to their riper years. 
We believe that, as they have enjoyed the advan- 
tages of infant-baptism, and are thereby prepared 
for making " the answer of a good conscience to- 
wards God," all the inward grace which that sacra- 
ment exhibits will be conveyed to their souls, when 
they partake worthily of the other : for then the co- 
venant with God is upon their part confirmed ; and 
as certainly as they know that they fulfil what he 
requires of them, so certainly may they be assured 
that he will fulfil what he has promised. 

Priestley. Barclay's Apology. Seeker. Calviu, 

THE lord's supper. 321 



The other rite, to which Protestants give the name 
of a sacrament, is commonly called, after the exam- 
ple of Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 20, the Lord's supper, as the 
Lord's day is called, Kv^tazTi rnj^z^a^ Rev. i. 10. It de- 
rives its name from having been instituted by Jesus, 
after he had supped with his apostles, immediately 
before he went out to be delivered into the hands of 
his enemies. 

In Egypt, for every house of the children of Israel, 
a lamb was slain upon that night, when the Almighty 
punished the cruelty and obstinacy of the Egyptians 
by killing their first-born ; but charged the destroy- 
ing angel to pass over the houses upon which the 
blood of the lamb was sprinkled. This was the ori- 
ginal sacrifice of the passover. In commemoration 
of it, the Jews observed the annual festival of the 
passover, when all the males of Judea assembled be- 
fore the Lord in Jerusalem. A lamb was slain for 
every house, the representative of that whose blood 
had been sprinkled in the night of the escape from 
Egypt. After the blood was poured vmder the altar 
by the priests, the lambs were carried home to be 
eaten by the people in their tents or houses at a do- 
mestic feast, where every master of a family took 


322 THE lord's supper. 

the cup of thanksgiving, and gave thanks with his 
family to the God of Israel. Jesus having fulfilled 
the law of Moses, to which in all things he submit- 
ted, by eating the paschal supper with his disciples, 
proceeded after supper, to institute a rite, which, to 
any person that reads the words of the institution 
without having formed a previous opinion upon 
the subject, will probably appear to have been in- 
tended by him as a memorial of that event, which 
was to happen not many hours after. Luke xxii. 
19, 20. " He took bread and gave thanks, and brake 
it, and gave it unto them, saying, this is my body 
which is given for you : this do in remembrance of 
me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, this 
cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed 
for you." He took the bread which was then on the 
table, and the wine, of which some had been used 
in sending round the cup of thanksgiving ; and by 
saying, " This is my body, this is my blood, do this 
in remembrance of me," he declared to his apostles 
that this was the representation of his death, by which 
he wished them to commemorate that event. The 
apostle Paul, not having been present at the institu- 
tion, received it by immediate revelation from the 
Lord Jesus ; and the manner in which he delivers it 
to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. xi. 23 — 26, implies that it 
was not a rite confined to the apostles who were pre- 
sent when it was instituted, but that it was meant 
to be observed by all Christians to the end of the 
world. " As often as ye eat this bread, and drink 
this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." 
Whether we consider these words as part of the re- 
velation made to Paul, or as his own commentary 
upon the nature of the ordinance which was reveal- 

THE lord's supper. 323 

ed to him, they mark, with equal significancy and 
propriety, the extent and the perpetuity of the obli- 
gation to observe that rite which was first instituted 
in presence of the apostles. 

There is a striking correspondence between this 
view of the Lord's supper, as a right by which it was 
intended that all Christians should commemorate 
the death of Christ, and the circumstances attending 
the institution of the feast of the passover. Like the 
Jews, we have the original sacrifice ; " Christ our 
passover is sacrificed for us," and by his substitution, 
our souls are delivered from death. Like the Jews, 
we have a feast in which that sacrifice, and the 
deliverance purchased by it, are remembered. Hence 
the Lord's supper was early called the eucharist, from 

its being said by Luke, XaCwi/ u^tov, sv^a^igryiaag sxXaJS. 

Jesus when he took the bread gave thanks ; and his 
disciples in all ages, when they receive the bread, 
keep a feast of thanksgiving. To Christians as to 
Jews, there '* is a night to be much observed unto 
the Lord," in all generations. To Christians as to 
Jews, the manner of observing the night is appoint- 
ed. To both, it is accompanied with thanksgiving. 
And thus, as different expressions led us formerly to 
conclude, that the initiatory rite of Christianity 
comes in place of the initiatory rite of the Abraha- 
mic covenant, we now find that the other sacrament 
of the New Testament also has its counterpart under 
the Old. 

The Lord's supper exhibits by a significant action, 
the characteristical doctrine of the Christian faith, 
that the death of its author, which seemed to be the 
completion of the rage of his enemies, was a volun- 
tary sacrifice, so efficacious as to supersede the ne- 


cessitj^ of every other ; and that his hlood was shed 
for the remission of sins. By partaking of this rite, 
his disciples publish an event most interesting to all 
the kindreds of the earth; they declare that, far 
from being ashamed of the sufferings of their master, 
they glory in his cross ; and while they thus per- 
form the office implied in that expression of the 
apostle, Tov ^ccj/arov ro-o Kv^wu zurayyiXXsrs, they at the Same 
time cherish the sentiments, by which their religion 
ministers to their own consolation and improvement. 
They cannot remember the death of Christ, the cir- 
cumstances which rendered that event necessary, the 
disinterested love, and the exalted virtues of their 
deliverer, without feeling their obligations to him. 
Unless the vilest hypocrisy accompany an action, 
which, by its very nature, professes to flow from 
warm affection, " the love of Christ" will " con- 
strain" them to fulfil the purposes of his death, by 
" living unto him who died for them ;" and we have 
every reason to hope that, in the places where he 
causes his name to be remembered, he will come and 
bless his people. From these views of the Lord's 
supper, the command of Jesus, " do this in remem- 
brance of me," has been held in the highest respect 
ever since the night in which it was given ; and the 
action has appeared so natural, so pleasing, so salu- 
tary an expression of all that a Christian feels, that, 
with the exception only of the Quakers, whose spirit- 
ual system, far refined above the condition of human- 
ity, despises all those helps which he who knows our 
weakness saw to be necessary, it has been observed 
in the Christian church, from the earliest times to 
the present day. 

This is the pleasing picture of the Lord's supper. 

THE lord's supper. 3^5 

which we wis?i always to present : and happy had 
it been for the Christian world, if this were all that 
required to be said upon the subject. But it has so 
happened, that an ordinance, which is the natural 
expression of love to the common master of Christ- 
ians, and which seems to constitute a bond of union 
amongst them, has proved the source of corruptions, 
the most dishonourable to their religion, and of mu- 
tual contentions the most bitter and the most dis- 
graceful. For while, with a trifling exception, all 
Christians have agreed in respecting and observing 
this sacrament, they have been very far removed 
from one another in their opinions as to its nature ; 
and these opinions have not been always speculative, 
but have often had a considerable influence upon a 
great part of their practice. 

Had the Scriptures represented the Lord's supper 
in no other light than as a remembrance of the death 
of Christ, there could hardly have been room for 
this variety of opinion. But as there are expres- 
sions, both in the words of the institution, and in 
other places of Scripture, which seem to open a fur- 
ther view of this ordinance, the different interpreta- 
tions of these passages have given occasion to differ- 
ent systems. In the words of the institution, Jesus 
calls the cup " the new testament, or covenant, in 
my blood," which implies a connexion of some kind, 
in conceiving and stating which men may differ, be- 
tween the cup drunk in the Lord's sapper and the 
new covenant. He says also, " this is my body ; 
this is my blood ;" which implies a sacredness, of 
the degrees of which very different apprehensions 
may be entertained, arising from the connexion be- 
tween the subject and the predicate of these proposi- 

3^6 THE lord's supper. 

tions. The apostle Paul, in reciting the words of 
the institution in his First Epistle to the Corin- 
thians, for the purpose of correcting certain inde- 
cencies in celebrating this ordinance which had 
arisen in the infant Church of Corinth, speaks of 
the guilt and danger of eating and drinking unwor- 
thily, in a manner which to some conveys an awful 
idea of the sanctity of the Lord's supper, and to 
many suggests the most precious benefits as the cer- 
tain consequence of eating and drinking worthily. 
This suggestion appears to be confirmed by the in- 
cidental mention which Paul has made of the Lord's 
supper in the 10th chapter of that Epistle. " The 
cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the commu- 
nion of the blood of Christ ?" Lastly, there is a long 
discourse of our Lord in John vi. which some con- 
sider as nothing more than a continued figure, with- 
out any special relation to the Lord's supper, whilst 
others apply it either in its literal, or at least in its 
highest sense to this ordinance. Upon these pas- 
sages of Scripture are founded the four different sys- 
tems concerning the Lord's supper, of which I mean 
to give a concise view. 

1. The first to be mentioned, is that monstrous 
system which is held in the church of Rome, the se- 
veral parts of which may be thus shortly brought 
together. It is conceived that the words, " this is 
my body, this is my blood," are to be understood 
in their most literal sense ; that when Jesus pro- 
nounced these words, he changed, by his almighty 
power, the bread upon the table into his body, and 
the wine into his blood, and really delivered his body 
and blood into the hands of his apostles ; and that 
at all times, when the Lord's supper is administer- 

THE lord's supper. 3^7 

ed, the priest, by pronouncing these words with a 
good intention, has the power of making a similar 
change. This change is known by the name of 
transubstantiation ; the propriety of which name is 
conceived to consist in this, that although the bread 
and wine are not changed in figure, taste, weight, or 
any other accident, it is believed that the substance 
of them is completely destroyed ; that in place of it, 
the substance of the body and blood of Christ, al- 
though clothed with all the sensible properties of 
bread and v/ine, is truly present ; and that the per- 
sons who receive what has been consecrated by pro- 
nouncing these words, do not receive bread and wine, 
but literally partake of the body and blood of Christ, 
and really eat his flesh and drink his blood. It is 
further conceived that the bread and wine, thus 
changed, are presented by the priest to God ; and he 
receives the name of priest, because in laying them 
upon the altar he offers to God a sacrifice, which, al- 
though it be distinguished from all others, by being 
without the shedding of blood, is a true propitiatory 
sacrifice for the sins of the dead and of the living — 
the body and blood of Christ, which were presented 
on the cross, again presented in the sacrifice of the 
mass. It is conceived, that the materials of this 
sacrifice, being truly the body and blood of Christ, 
possess an intrinsic virtue, which does not depend 
upon the disposition of him who receives them, but 
operates immediately upon all who do not obstruct 
the operation by a mortal sin. Hence it is account- 
ed of great importance for the salvation of the sick 
and dying, that parts of these materials should be 
sent to them ; and it is understood that the practice 
of partaking in private of a small portion of what 

328 THE lord's supper. 

the priest has thus transubstantiated, is, in all re- 
spects, as proper and salutary as joining with others 
in the Lord's Supper. It is further conceived, that 
as the bread and wine, when converted into the 
body and blood of Christ, are a natural object of re- 
verence and adoration to Christians, it is highly pro- 
per to worship them upon the altar, and that it is 
expedient to carry them about in solemn procession, 
that they may receive the homage of all who meet 
them. What had been transubstantiated was there- 
fore lifted up for the purpose of receiving adoration, 
both when it was shown to the people at the altar, 
and when it was carried about. Hence arose that 
expression in the church of Rome, the elevation of 
the host ; elevatio hostile. But, as the wine in be- 
ing carried about was exposed to accidents inconsist- 
ent with the veneration due to the body and blood 
of Christ, it became customary to send only the 
bread ; and, in order to satisfy those who for this 
reason did not receive the wine, they were taught 
that, as the bread was changed into the body of 
Christ, they partook by concomitancy of the blood 
with the body. In process of time, the people were 
not allowed to partake of the cup ; and it was said, 
that when Jesus spake these words, " drink ye all of 
it," he was addressing himself only to his apostles, 
so that his command was fulfilled when the priests, 
the successors of the apostles, drank of the cup, al- 
though the people were excluded. And thus the 
last part of this system conspired with the first in 
exalting the clergy very far above the laity. For 
the same persons, who had the power of changing 
bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, 
and who presented what they had thus made, as a 

THE lord's supper. SW 

sacrifice for the sins of others, enjoyed the privilege 
of partaking of the cup, while communion in one 
kind only was permitted to the people. 

The absurdities of this system have been fully ex- 
posed by Calvin, Tillotson, Burnet, and the number- 
less writers, who, since the time of the Reformation, 
have directed the artillery of reason, philosophy, ri- 
dicule, and Scripture, against this enormous fabric. 
So much sound sense and logical acuteness have been 
displayed in the attack, that it may often be matter 
of wonder how such a system could be swallowed. 
To account for this, you must recollect the univer- 
sal ignorance which for many ages overspread Eu- 
rope, the natural progress of error, the credulity of 
superstition, the artifice with which this system was 
gradually unfolded, and the deep and continued po- 
licy which, by availing itself of figurative expres- 
sions in Scripture, of the glowing language of devout 
writers, of the superstition of the people, and of 
every favourable occurrence, compounded the whole 
into such a form, as, when brought to maturity, en- 
gaged various interests in maintaining its credit. It 
appears, from ecclesiastical history, that it was not 
without much opposition that this system, the re- 
sult of the growing corruptions of succeeding ages, 
was finally established. Although, from the begin- 
ning, the Lord's supper was regarded with such re- 
verence as would easily degenerate into superstition, 
and, although in all ages of the church there had 
been an opinion founded upon the words of our 
Lord, that communicants partake of his body and 
blood, yet when an attempt was made in the ninth 
century to define the manner of this participation, 
by saying that the body which suffered on the cross 


was locally present in the Lord's supper, the attempt 
was resisted ; and the rational doctrine, by which 
Joannes Scotus Erigena combated this attempt, was 
maintained and illustrated in the eleventh century 
by Berenger. Even after the name transubstantia- 
tion was invented in the thirteenth century, and de- 
clared by the authority of the Pope in the fourth 
Lateran council to be an article of faith, impressions 
made by the doctrine of Berenger were not effaced 
from the minds of men : and some, who did not ven- 
ture to profess their disbelief of an article which the 
supreme authority of the church had imposed upon 
all Christians, tried to avoid the palpable absurdities 
of that article, by substituting, about the end of the 
thirteenth century, in place of transubstantiation the 
word consubstantiation. This word was adopted by 
Luther at the beginning of the Reformation, and is 
commonly employed to express the distinguishing 
character of the second system concerning the Lord's 

2. It appeared to Luther, from the words of the 
institution, and from other places of Scripture, that 
the body and blood of Christ are really present in 
the Lord's supper. But he saw the absurdity of 
supposing that, in contradiction to our senses, what 
appears to us to be as much bread and wine, after 
the consecration as before it, is literally destroyed, 
or changed into another substance ; and, therefore, 
he taught that the bread and wine indeed remain, 
but that, together with t?iem, there is present the 
substance of the body and blood of Christ, which is 
literally received by communicants. As in a red-hot 
iron, he said, two distinct substances, iron and fire, 
are united, so is the body of Christ joined with the 

THE lord's supper. SSI 

bread. Some of the immediate followers of Luther, 
perceiving that similes of this kind, which certainly 
contain no argument, did not throw any light upon 
the subject to which they were applied, contented 
themselves with saying, that the body and blood of 
Christ are really present in the sacrament, although 
the manner of that presence is a mystery which we 
cannot explain. Other followers of Luther, wishing 
to give a more accurate account of this article of their 
faith, had recourse to the avn^oaig ihtojfLarm^ the commu- 
nication of properties, which was mentioned former- 
ly, as resulting from the union between the divine 
and human natures of Christ.* They said that all 
those properties of the divine nature, the exercise of 
which is essential to the office of mediator, were com- 
municated to the human nature. It appeared to 
them, therefore, that as the mediator of the new 
covenant can only act where he is, and as the human 
nature of Christ enters into our conception of his 
being mediator, there is communicated to that nature 
what they called omnipresentia majestatica, by which 
the body of Christ, although a true body, might be 
in all places at the same time. Having thus satisfied 
themselves of the possibility of the real presence 
of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's sup- 
per, they found it easy to believe, that when these 
words, " this is my body, this is my blood," were 
pronounced, the body and blood of Christ, being 
really present, united themselves to the bread and 
wine, and that both were at once received by the 

The great proportion of Christians, who hold what 

* Book iii. cli. 8. 

33S THE lord's supper. 

I called the Catholic opinion concerning the person 
of ovir Saviour, understand the avrtboaig ihoofxarm in a 
different sense. They consider, that in consequence 
of the intimate union between the two natures of 
him who is both God and man, every thing that is 
true concerning the human nature may be affirmed 
of the same person, of whom every thing true con- 
cerning the divine nature may also be affirmed. So 
it may be said that the Son of God died, because he 
died in respect of his human nature ; or that " the 
Son of man hath power to forgive sins," because the 
Son of man is also the Son of God. But consider- 
ing each nature as true and complete by itself, they 
account it as impossible that any of the properties of 
the divine nature should belong to the human, as 
that any of the weaknesses of humanity should be 
imparted to the divinity of Christ. Other Christians, 
therefore, who believe in the divinity of our Saviour, 
while they admit that, in respect of his divine na- 
ture, he is always present with his disciples, believe 
also that his body, which was upon earth during his 
abode here, and which was removed from earth at 
the time of his ascension, is now confined to that 
place which it inhabits in heaven ; and they consider 
ubiquity as a property inconsistent with the nature 
of body. The ubiquity of the body of Christ, which 
other Christians upon this ground reject, was not 
held either by Luther himself, or by all his follow- 
ers, but was invented by some of them as a j^hiloso- 
phical explication of that tenet, concerning the real 
presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's 
Supper, which they derived from him. 

It is not easy to form a precise notion of the man- 
ner in which this tenet is explained, or defended 

THE lord's supper. SSS 

by the modern Lutherans, who appear to feel the 
force of all the objections that have been urged 
against it. They disclaim the various errors and 
absurdities, which appear to us to be connected with 
ascribing to a true body a local presence at all times, 
in all places ; and they employ a multitude of words, 
which I profess I do not understand, to reconcile 
the limited extension which enters into our concep- 
tions of body with that omnipresence of the body of 
Christ, which appears to them to flow fi'om the in- 
separable union between the divine and human na- 
tures. They reject the term consubstantiation, be- 
cause that may seem to imply that the body of 
Christ is incorporated with the substance of the 
bread and wine. They reject another term also, 
which had been used upon this subject, impanation, 
because that may seem to imply that the body of 
Christ is enclosed, and lodged in the bread. But 
still they profess to hold that doctrine, which is ex- 
pressed in all the standard books of the Lutheran 
churches, and is one of the principal marks of dis- 
tinction between them and the reformed churches ; 
that, besides the earthly matter, which is the object 
of our senses in the sacrament, there are also pre- 
sent a^/aorarwj, in such a manner as not to be removed 
at any distance from it, the real body and blood of 
Christ ; so that by all who partake of the Lord's 
supper cufTi pane corpus Christi ore accipiatur et 
manducetur ; cum vino autem sanguis ejus bibafur. 
This opinion, although free from some of the ab- 
surdities of transubstantiation, appears to us to la- 
bour under so many palpable difficulties, that we are 
disposed to wonder at its being held by men of a 
philosophical mind. It is fair, however, to mention. 

334 THE lord's supper. 

that the doctrine of the real presence is in the Lu- 
theran church merely a speculative opinion, having 
no influence upon the practice of those by whom it 
is adopted. It appears to them that this opinion 
furnishes the best method of explaining a Scripture 
expression : but they do not consider the presence of 
the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine, 
as imparting to the sacrament any physical virtue, 
by which the benefit derived from it is independent 
of the disposition of him by whom it is received ; 
or as giving it the nature of a sacrifice ; or as ren- 
dering the bread and wine an object of adoration 
to Christians. And their doctrine being thus sepa- 
rated from the three great practical errors of the 
church of Rome, receives, even from those who ac- 
count it false and irrational, a kind of indulgence 
very different from that which is shown to the doc- 
trine of trans ubstantiation. 

3. A system free from all the objections which 
adhere to that of Luther, was held by some of his 
first associates in the Reformation, and constitutes 
the third system concerning the Lord's supper which 
I have to delineate. 

Carolostadt, a professor with Luther in the uni- 
versity of Wittenberg, and Zuinglius, a native of 
Switzerland, the founder of the reformed churches, 
or those Protestant churches which are not Lutheran, 
taught that the bread and wine in the Lord's supper 
are the signs of the absent body and blood of Christ; 
that when Jesus said, " this is my body, this is my 
blood," he used a figure exactly of the same kind 
with that, by which, according to the abbreviations 
continually practised in ordinary speech, the sign is 
often put for the thing signified. As this figure is 


THE lord's supper. 335 

common, so there were two circumstances which 
would prevent the apostles from misunderstanding 
it, when used in the institution of the Lord's sup- 
per. The one was, that they saw the body of 
Jesus then alive, and therefore could not suppose 
that they were eating it. The other was, that 
they had just been partaking of a Jewish fes- 
tival, in the institution of which the very same figure 
had been used. For in the night in which the chil- 
dren of Israel escaped out of Egypt, God said of the 
lamb which he commanded every house to eat and 
slay, " it is the Lord's passover ;"* not meaning that 
it was the action of the Lord passing over every 
house, but the token and pledge of that action. It 
is admitted by all Christians, that there is such a 
figure used in one part of the institution. When 
our Lord says, " this cup is the new covenant in my 
blood," none suppose him to mean that the cup is the 
covenant, but all believe that he means to call it the me- 
morial, or the sign, or the seal of the covenant. If it be 
understood, that, agreeably to the analogy of language, 
he uses a similar figure when he says, " This is my 
body," and that he means nothing more than " this 
is the sign of my body," we are delivered from all 
the absurdities implied in the literal interpretation, 
to which the Roman Catholics think it necessary to 
adhere. We give the words a more natural inter- 
pretation than the Lutherans do, who consider " this 
is my body" as intended to express a proposition which 
is totally different, " my body is with this ;" and we 
escape from the difficulties in which they are involved 
by their forced interpretation. 

* Exod. xii. 11. 

336 THE lord's supper. 

Further, by this method of interpretation there is 
no ground left for that adoration, which the church 
of Rome pays to the bread and wine ; for they are 
only the signs of that which is believed to be absent. 
There is no groimd for accounting the Lord's sup- 
per, to the dishonour of " the high priest of our pro- 
fession," a new sacrifice presented by an earthly 
priest ; for the bread and wine are only the memo- 
rials of that sacrifice which was once offered on the 
cross. And, lastly, this interpretation destroys the 
popish idea of a physical virtue in the Lord's sup- 
per ; for if the bread and wine are signs of what is 
absent, their use must be to excite the remembrance 
of it ; but this is a use which cannot possibly exist 
with regard to any, but those whose minds are 
thereby put into a proper frame ; and therefore 
the Lord's supper becomes, instead of a charm, a 
mental exercise, and the eflficacy of it arises not ex 
opere operato, but ex opere operajitis. 

An interpretation recommended by such import- 
ant advantages found a favourable reception with 
many, whose minds were opened at the Reformation 
to the light of philosophy and Scripture. Its lead- 
ing principles are held by all the reformed churches, 
as one mark by which they are distinguished from 
the Lutheran ; and it was adopted as a full account 
of the Lord's supper, by that large body of Protest- 
ants who are known by the name of Socinians, be- 
cause it coincides entirely with their ideas of a sa- 
crament. It has been illustrated very fully in two 
treatises ; the one written in the beginning of last 
century by Bishop Hoadley, entitled A Plain Ac- 
count of the Nature and Ends of the Sacrament of 
the Lord's Supper ; the other written about twenty 

.THE lord's supper. 33? 

years ago, by Dr. Bell, entitled, An Attempt to as- 
certain the Authority, Nature, and Design of the 
Lord's Supper. The leading principle of the two 
treatises is the same, and may be thus shortly stated 
in the words of Dr. Bell. " That the Lord's Sup- 
per is nothing more than what the words of the in- 
stitution fully express, a religious commemoration 
of the death of Christ ; which it is the absolute duty 
of every one who believes in Christ to celebrate : 
that the performance of it is not attended with any 
other benefits than those we ourselves take care to 
make it productive of, by its religious influence on 
our principles and practice ; but that, of all mere 
acts of religious worship, it is naturally in itself a- 
dapted to possess our minds most strongly with reli- 
gious reflections, and to induce as well as enable us 
to strengthen most effectually every virtuous resolu- 

Bishop Hoadley and Dr. Bell avail themselves of 
the rational interpretation which Zuinglius gave of 
these words, " this is my body ;" and of the plain 
meaning of the other words of the institution, " do 
this in remembrance of me." They consider the 
discourse of our Lord in John vi. as having no rela- 
tion to the Lord's supper. They interpret xo/vwwa row 

aifLarog, xotvojvia rov ffojfiarog rov X^iffrov, 1 Cor. X. 1 0, whlch WC 

render " the communion of the blood, the commun- 
ion of the body of Christ," as meaning nothing more 
than the participation of his body and blood, /'. e. of 
the signs of his body and blood. According to them, 
the apostle refers in that chapter merely to the pub- 
lic profession of Christianity, which all who partake 
of the Lord's supper solemnly and jointly make ; and 
the unworthy communicating, which is condemned 
VOL. in. z 

338 THE lord's supper. 

in 1 Cor. xi. is confined to those who make no dis- 
tinction between the bread and wine, which they 
receive at the Lord's supper, as signs of the body and 
blood of Christ, and the bread and wine which they 
receive at any other time. 

This third system is not necessarily connected with 
the two distinguishing tenets of the Socinians. For 
those who hold the Catholic opinion with regard to 
the person of Christ and the atonement, may consi- 
der the Lord's supper as of no other advantage to 
the individual, than by leading him to remember that 
event, the devout recollection of which has a tend- 
ency to minister to his improvement. But it so hap- 
pens, that all those who are called Calvinists have 
adopted a further view of the Lord's supper ; and, as 
the thirty-nine articles of the church of England were 
composed by Calvinists, that view is expressed as 
strongly in the articles which treat of the Lord's 
supper, and in the office for the communion, as in 
our Confession of Faith and catechism. 

4. This farther view, which forms a fourth system 
concerning the Lord's supper, originated in the lan- 
guage of Calvin upon this subject. He knew that 
former attempts to reconcile the systems of Luther 
and Zuinglius had proved fruitless. But he saw the 
importance of uniting Protestants upon a point, with 
respect to which they agreed in condemning the er- 
rors of the church of Rome ; and his zeal in renew- 
ing the attempt was probably quickened by the sin- 
cere friendship which he entertained for Melancthon, 
who was the successor of Luther, while he himself 
had succeeded Zuinglius in conducting the Reforma- 
tion in Switzerland. He thought that the system of 
Zuinglius did not come up to the force of the expres- 

THE lord's supper. 339 

sions used in Scripture ; and, although he did not 
approve of the manner in which the Lutherans ex- 
plain these expressions, it appeared to him that there 
was a sense in which the full significancy of them 
might be preserved, and a great part of the Lutheran 
language might continue to be used. As he agreed 
with Zuinglius, in thinking that the bread and wine 
were the signs of the body and blood of Christ, which 
were not locally present, he renounced both transub- 
stantiation and consubstantiation. He agreed farther 
with Zuinglius, in thinking that the use of these 
signs, being a memorial of the sacrifice once offered 
on the cross, was intended to produce a moral effect. 
But he taught, that to all who remember the death of 
Christ in a proper manner, Christ, by the use of these 
signs, is spiritually present, — present to their minds ; 
and he considered this spiritual presence as giving a 
significancy, that goes far beyond the Socinian sense, 
to these words of Paul ; " the cup of blessing which 
we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of 
Christ ; the bread which we break, is it not the 
communion of the body of Christ ?" It is not the 
blessing pronounced which makes any change upon 
the cup, but to all who join with becoming affection 
in the thanksgiving then uttered in the name of the 
congregation, Christ is spiritually present, so that 
they may emphatically be said to partake, zomm/v, 
,u.sTix^/v, of his body and blood ; because his body and 
blood being spiritually present convey the same nour- 
ishment to their souls, the same quickening to the 
spiritual life, as bread and wine do to the natural 
life. Hence Calvin was led to connect the discourse 
in John vi. v/ith the Lord's supper ; not in that li- 
teral sense which is agreeable to Popish and Lutheran 

34U THE lord's supper. 

ideas, as if the body of Christ was really eaten, and 
his blood really drunk by any ; but in a sense agree- 
able to the expression of our Lord in the conclusion 
of that discourse, " the words that I speak unto you, 
they are spirit and they are life ;" /. e. when I say 
to you, " whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my 
blood, dwelleth in me and I in him ; he shall live by 
me, for my flesh is meat indeed," you are to under- 
stand these words, not in a literal but in a spiritual 
sense. The spiritual sense adopted by the Socinians 
is barely this, that the doctrine of Christ is the food 
of the soul, by cherishing a life of virtue here, and 
the hope of a glorious life hereafter. The Calvinists 
think, that into the full meaning of the figure used 
in these words, there enter not merely the exhorta- 
tions and instructions which a belief of the Gospel 
affords, but also that union between Christ and his 
people, which is the consequence of faith, and that 
communication of grace and strength, by which they 
are quickened in well-doing, and prepared for the 
discharge of every duty. 

According to this fourth system, the full benefit 
of the Lord's supper is peculiar to those who partake 
worthily. For while all who eat the bread and drink 
the wine may be said to show the Lord's death, and 
may also receive some devout impressions, they only 
to whom Jesus is spiritually present share in that 
spiritual nourishment which arises from partaking 
of his body and blood. According to this system, 
eating and drinking unworthily has a further sense 
than enters into the Socinian system, and it becomes 
the duty of every Christian to examine himself, not 
only with regard to his knowledge, but also with re- 
gard to his general conduct, before he eats of that 

THE lord's supper. 341 

bread and drinks of that cup. It becomes also the 
duty of those who have the inspection of Christian 
societies, to exclude from this ordinance persons, of 
whom there is every reason to believe that they are 
strangers to the sentiments which it presupposes, 
and without which none are prepared for holding 
that communion with Jesus which it implies. 

This fourth system may, with proper judgment 
and discretion, be rendered in a high degree subser- 
vient to the moral improvement of Christians ; but 
there is much danger of its being abused. The no- 
tion of a communion with Christ in this particular 
ordinance, more intimate than at any other time, 
may foster a spirit of fanaticism, unless the nature 
and the fruits of that communion are carefully ex- 
plained. The humble and contrite may be over- 
whelmed with religious melancholy, when the state 
of their minds does not correspond to the descriptions 
which are sometimes given of that communion. 
Presumptuous sinners may be confirmed in the prac- 
tice of wickedness by feeling an occasional glow of 
affection ; or, on the other hand, a general neglect 
of an ordinance, which all are commanded to observe, 
may be, and in some parts of Scotland is, the conse- 
quence of holding forth notions of the danger and 
guilt of communicating unworthily, more rigorous 
than are clearly warranted by Scripture.* 

I have now delineated the four capital systems of 
opinion, to which the few passages in Scripture that 
mention the Lord's supper have given occasion. 1 
leave to your private study a critical examination of 
the several passages, and a particular discussion of 

* Hill's Theological Institutes;, Part iii. 2. 

34^ THE lord's supper. 

the various arguments, by which each system has 
been supported. In prosecuting this study, you will 
find that the passage in 1 Cor. x. has suggested the 
idea of a feast after a sacrifice, as the true explica- 
tion of the Lord's supper. The idea was first illus- 
trated by Cudworth, in a particular dissertation, 
printed at the end of that edition of his Intellectual 
System, which the learned Mosheim, a Lutheran 
divine, published in Latin, and has enriched with 
the most valuable notes. The idea was adopted by 
the ingenious Warburton, and applied by him, in 
one of his sermons, in a treatise on the Lord's sup- 
per, and in a supplemental volume of the Divine 
Legation of Moses, as an effectual answer to both 
the Popish and the Socinian systems. When you 
examine what Cudworth, Mosheim, Warburton, 
Hoadley, and Bell have written, you will probably 
think that this idea, like many others which learned 
and ingenious men lay hold of, has been pushed too 
far ; that, although there are points of resemblance 
between the Lord's supper, and those feasts which, 
both amongst heathens and Jews, followed after sa- 
crifices, yet the resemblance is too vague, and fails 
in too many respects to furnish the ground, either of 
a clear exposition of the nature of the ordinance, or 
of any solid argument in opposition to those who 
have mistaken its nature. 

In the fourth system the church of England and 
we perfectly agree, as may be seen by comparing 
Articles xxviii. and xxix. with our standards. With 
regard to the differences between us, as to the times, 
the places, and the manner of receiving the Lord's 
supper, they are too insignificant, I do not say to be 
discussed, but to be mentioned here ; '' for the king- 

THE lord's supper. 343 

dom of God is not meat and drink, but righteous- 
ness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." One 
circumstance only may appear to be important. The 
nature of the ordinance, as well as the words of Paul, 
" As often as ye eat this bread," implies this differ- 
ence between the two sacraments, that while baptism 
is not to be repeated, the Lord's supper is to be re- 
ceived frequently. But as the spiritual religion of 
Jesus has, in no instance, given a precise directory 
for the outward conduct, the frequency of celebrat- 
ing it is left to be regulated by the prudence of 
Christian societies. The early Christians were ac- 
customed to partake of the Lord's supper, every 
time that they assembled for public worship. It is 
certainly fit that Christians should not assemble for 
that purpose, without remembering the great event 
which is characteristical of their religion. But as 
that event may be brought to their remembrance by 
prayer, by reading the Scriptures, by the discourses 
delivered when they assemble, and by the sacrament 
of baptism, it does not appear essential, that the par- 
ticular and solemn method of showing the Lord's 
death, which he has appointed, should form a part 
of their stated worship. In latter times, the Lord's 
supper is celebrated by some churches, at the return 
of stated festivals throughout the year ; by others, 
without any fixed time, according to circumstances, 
either oftener in the year, or, in imitation of the 
Jewish passover, only once. There are advantages 
attending all the modes, which it is difficult precise- 
ly to estimate ; for if the impressions connected with 
this ordinance are oftener excited in one mode, it 
may be expected that they will be deeper and more 
lasting in another. Very worthy people have dif- 

S44 THE lord's supper. 

fered as to the obligation of communicating fre- 
quently, and consequently as to the distance of time 
at which such opportunities should be afforded to large 
societies of Christians. But at whatever time the 
Lord's supper is administered, all who hold the 
fourth system agree in thinking themselves war- 
ranted, by these words of our Lord, "* this cup is 
the new covenant in my blood," to represent this 
ordinance as the appointed method, in which Christ- 
ians renew their covenant with God. For while 
they engage, at a time when every sentiment of 
piety and gratitude may be supposed to be strong 
and warm in their breasts, that they will fulfil their 
part of their covenant, they behold in the actions 
which they perform a striking representation of that 
event, by which the covenant was confirmed ; and 
they receive, in the grace and strength then con- 
veyed to their souls, a seal of that forgiveness of 
sins, which, through the blood of the covenant, is 
granted to all that repent, and a pledge of the fu- 
ture blessings promised to those who are " faithful 
unto death." 

Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. Cudworth with Mosheim's Notes. 
Warburtoii. Hoadley. Bell. Bagot. 




The concluding topic of the ordinary systems of 
theology is entitled Ue novissimis, i. e. De 7'esurrec- 
tione, extremo judicio, eternid morte, eternii vita. 
It comprehends various questions respecting the con- 
dition of men after death. It might appear strange 
if I were to omit the mention of this topic : and yet 
I do not think any particular discussion of it neces- 
sary in this place. For all the questions generally 
arranged under this topic are included in former 
parts of the course, or turn upon principles that be- 
long to other sciences, or are of such a nature as not 
to admit of any solution. The great doctrine which 
theology clearly teaches, with regard to the future 
condition of men, is this, that by the righteousness 
of Jesus Christ there is conveyed, to all who repent 
and believe, a right to eternal life.* This is the 
only point which it is of importance for us distinctly 
to understand ; for if God is to give eternal life to his 
servants through Jesus Christ, there can be no doubt 
that it will be a happy life, although the present 
state of our faculties may not admit of our forming an 
adequate conception of the nature of its felicity. The 

* Book iv. ch. 4. 


various images, which are used in Scripture, may 
indeed be employed with great propriety by persons 
of correct taste, and of a sober and chastised judg- 
ment, in filling up such a picture of a future state, 
as may minister to the consolation and improve- 
ment of Christians. But this is rather a subject of 
popular discourse than of theological discussion ; 
because the data are not sufficient to establish, be- 
yond doubt, any one position concerning the parti- 
culars that constitute the happiness of a future state, 
as the only position that can be seriously maintain- 
ed by those who receive the Scripture accounts. 

Besides questions concerning the nature of the 
happiness of heaven, there have also arisen questions 
concerning the state of the soul, in the interval be- 
tween death and the general resurrection. But 
these questions belong to pneumatology. For if we 
believe, with Dr. Priestley, that the soul is not a sub- 
stance distinct from the body, we must believe with 
him that the whole of the human machine is at rest 
after death, till it be restored to its functions at the 
last day ; but if we are convinced of the immate- 
riality of the soul, we shall not think the soul so en- 
tirely dependent in all its operations upon its pre- 
sent companion, but that it may exist and act in an 
unembodied state. And if once we are satisfied that 
a state of separate existence is possible, we shall 
easily attach credit to the interpretation commonly 
given of the various expressions in Scripture, which 
seem to intimate that the souls of good men are ad- 
mitted to the presence of God immediately after 
death, although we soon find that a bound is set to 
our speculations, concerning the nature of this inter- 
mediate state. The subject is handled by Burnet, 


Ue Statu Mot'tuorum et Resurgentium ; and it has 
of late been rendered an object of attention by the 
bold speculations of Dr. Priestley, and by an opinion 
which Law has expressed very fully in the Appen- 
dix to Considerations on the Theory of Religion, and 
which many English divines have not scrupled to 
avow ; that immortality was not the condition of 
man's nature, but an additional privilege conferred 
through Jesus Christ, and that the Christian revela- 
tion of an immortality lays the chief, if not the 
whole, stress upon a resurrection. 

One branch of the opinions that have been held 
concerning an intermediate state is the popish doc- 
trine of purgatory, a doctrine which appears, upon 
the slightest inspection of the texts that have been 
adduced in support of it, to derive no evidence from 
Scripture ; which originated in the error of the 
church of Rome in assigning to personal suffering a 
place in the justification of a sinner ; and which is 
completely overturned by the doctrine of justifica- 
tion by faith, and by the general strain of Scripture, 
which represents this life as a state of probation, 
upon our conduct during which our everlasting con- 
dition depends. 

The certainty of a general resurrection is includ- 
ed in that right to eternal life, which enters into 
the nature of the Gospel remedy. But it has been 
asked, with regard to the resurrection, whether the 
same bodies rise. In giving the answer, we are 
obliged to resort to the principles of physiology, and 
soon find ourselves entangled in a dispute about 
words, upon this abtruse and undefinable question 
in metaphysics ; what is the principle of identity in 
a substance undergoing such perpetual changes as 


the human body ? A question has also been agitated, 
with regard to the eternity of hell torments. That 
view of the benevolence of the divine administra- 
tion, and of the final efficacy of that benevolence, 
which seems to be implied in the opinion that hell 
torments are not eternal, naturally creates a preju- 
dice in favour of it. But in speaking of the extent 
of the Gospel remedy, I stated the extreme caution 
with which we ought to speculate upon subjects so 
infinitely removed beyond the sphere of our observa- 
tion ; and the only thing which I have now to add 
is, that the Scriptures, by applying the very same 
expressions to the happiness of the righteous, and 
the punishment of the wicked, seem to teach us that 
both are of equal duration. 

Burnet. — Priestley. — Law. — Horsley . — Confession of Faith. — 
Marckii Medulla. — Calvin's Institutes. — Seeker's Lectures on the 
Catechism, and Five Sermons against Popery. 






The followers of Jesus are united by the mutual 
consideration, the tenderness in bearing with the in- 
firmities of others, the solicitude to avoid giving of- 
fence, the care to make their light to shine before 
men, so as to draw them to the practice of virtue, 
and the brotherly zeal in admonishing them of their 
duty, and in reproving their faults, which flow from 
the native spirit of the Gospel, which form the sub- 
ject of many particular precepts, and by means of 
which Christians are said to " edify one another." 

But their union is produced and cemented, not 
only by those affections which their religion che- 
rishes, but also by their joint acknowledgment of 
that system of truth which it reveals. " There is 
one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in 
one hope of your calling ; one Lord, one faith, one 
baptism, one God and Father of all."* As the pub- 

* Eph. iv. 4; 5, 6. 


lie worship of the " one God and Father of all," who 
is known by the light of nature, forms one of the 
duties of natural religion, so Christians, who by 
bearing that name, profess to believe in the person, 
whose interposition has opened a scheme for the sal- 
vation of sinners, are required to " confess him be- 
fore men," and by attending certain ordinances, to 
give a public testimony that they entertain the sen- 
timents which are supposed common to all his dis- 
ciples* The avowal of their belief of that system of 
truth, which may be learned from the revelation 
received by them as divine, is not left optional to 
Christians. He whom they acknowledge as their 
Master, has judged it proper to appoint that they 
shall solemnly be admitted amongst the number of 
his disciples by baptism, that they shall statedly join 
in different acts of worship presented to the Father 
in his name, and that they shall declare the reve- 
rence and gratitude with which they receive the 
characteristical doctrine of his religion, the redemp- 
tion of the world through his blood, by partaking 
frequently of the Lord's supper. 

If the whole Christian world could assemble to- 
gether for the purpose of observing the institutions 
of Christ, they would form one visible society, dis- 
tinguished from the rest of mankind, and united 
amongst themselves, by employing the same exter- 
nal rites as expressions of their holding the same 
truth. It was not the intention of the author of 
the Gospel that this visible unity of the Christian 
society should be long preserved, because his reli- 
gion was to spread rapidly throughout the world. 
But although, from, the earliest times, different as- 


semblies of Christians have, of necessity, met in 
separate places, yet the very act of their meeting, 
proceeding from the same general principles, and 
being directed to the same purpose, is such an ex- 
pression of union, as their distance from one another 
admits ; and all the assemblies of Christians in every 
quarter of the globe, professing to hold " the truth 
as it is in Jesus," and to worship God according to 
the appointment of Christ, are to be regarded as 
branches of what has been significantly called the 
catholic or universal church, the great society of the 
followers of the Lord Jesus, who would meet together 
if they could. 

Separation of place, which the propagation of 
Christianity renders unavoidable, has conspired with 
other causes to produce an apparent breach of the 
unity of the catholic church. Different interpreta- 
tions of Scripture have led to an opposition amongst 
Christians, in respect to the great doctrines of the 
Gospel ; different opinions as to the mode of worship, 
and the manner of observing the rites of religion, 
have been accompanied by corresponding differences 
in practice ; and some who call themselves disciples 
of Christ have departed so far from the sentiments 
generally entertained by their brethren, as to judge 
all rites unnecessary. 

If the followers of Jesus form a distinct society, 
and are bound to profess their faith by the observance 
of certain institutions, there will probably be found 
in the Gospel some regulations as to the time and 
manner of observing them, some appointment of per- 
sons to administer them, some principles of order, 
and some provision of authority for guarding the 


honour and purity of the Christian association. All 
this flows by natural consequence from the general 
idea of an obligation upon Christians to assemble to- 
gether, for the purpose of professing their faith by 
the observance of certain rites. But if there is no 
such obligation, if religion is merely a personal con- 
cern, and all the intercourse of a Christian with his 
Saviour and his God may be carried on in secret, then 
the whole idea of church-government vanishes, and 
the followers of Christ, as such, have no other bond 
of connexion except brotherly love. 

The first point, therefore, to which our attention 
must be turned, is an inquiry into the opinion of 
those who deny the perpetual obligation of the rites 
observed by other Christians, that we may thus as- 
certain whether we are warranted by Scripture to 
lay the foundation of church-government, in its be- 
ing the duty of Christians to assemble together for 
the observance of those rites. This inquiry is a 
branch of the first general head, under which I ar- 
range the questions that have been agitated concern- 
ing church-government. They respect either the 
persons in whom church-government is vested, or the 
extent of power which the lawful exercise of church- 
government implies. 

King on the Creed. 

Neale's History of the Puritans. 

Madox against Neale. 

Potter on Church- Government. 

Rogers's Visible and Invisible Church. 

Rogers's Civil Establishment of Religion. 


Anderson against Rhvnd. 


Stillingfleet's Irenicum. 

Cyprianus Isotimus, by Jamieson. 

Calvin's Institutes. 

Burn's Ecclesiastical Law* 


Kennet on Convocations. 

Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity. 

Divine Right of Church Government, by London Ministers. 

King on the Primitive Church. 

Grey's Abridgment of Gibson. 



Sherlock on Jude, 3d verse. 


35 k QUAKEHS. 



The different opinions respecting the persons in 
whom church government is vested will be brought 
under review, by attending to the systems of the 
Quakers, the Independents, the church of Rome, the 
Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians. 



The dangerous and delusive spirit, known by the 
name of fanaticism, was the principle of many sects 
which appeared after the Reformation, particularly 
of some of the rigid separatists from the church of 
England in the seventeenth century. It continues 
to tincture, more or less, the religious system of many 
individuals, and of different bodies of men : but the 
Quakers are the sect best known in our times, who 
profess what we call fanaticism as their peculiar te- 
net, and who follow it out in all its consequences. 


It is the character of fanaticism to consider the re- 
velation of the words and actions of Christ contain- 
ed in the Scriptures, and all the ordinances and out- 
ward performances there prescribed, as of very infe- 
rior value, when compared with the immediate in- 
fluence exerted by the Spirit upon the mind of the 
individual. It is conceived that this inward light 
constitutes a man a Christian, even although he has 
not the knowledge of the truth ; that he is to feel 
the impulse of the Spirit in all the important actions 
of his life, but more especially in the worship of God; 
and that, walking continually by this perfect guid- 
ance, he would be degraded if he were obliged to 
perform any external action in a certain manner. 

This principle easily extends its influence, both to 
the positive rites of Christianity, and to all the cir- 
cumstances that attend public worship. The Qua- 
kers consider baptism and the Lord's supper, which 
other Christians think themselves obliged to observe, 
merely as symbolical actions, the one shadowing 
forth the inward purification of the soul ; the other, 
the intimate communion which Christians enjoy with 
Christ : as figures for the time then present, which 
our Lord, in accommodation to the weakness of 
those with whom he lived, condescended to use be- 
fore the age of the Spirit commenced ; but as be- 
come unnecessary to all who understand the genius 
and the life of Christianity, since the outpouring of 
the Holy Ghost upon the day of Pentecost. In like 
manner, fixed times for the worship of God, stated 
prayer, and exhortations given by certain persons at 
certain seasons, are considered as intrusions upon 
the office of the Spirit, and are condemned as imply- 
ing a distrust of his operations. It is allowed that 


Christians ought to assemble in the expectation of 
being moved by the Spirit, and that the act of as- 
sembling may prepare their minds for receiving his 
influence. But it is understood, that in their assem- 
blies every one ought to speak as he is moved by 
the Spirit ; that the office of prayer and exhortation 
is the gift of the Spirit ; that the office continues 
during his operation ; that it comes to an end when 
the impulse is exhausted ; and that any person who 
prays and exhorts without this impulse acts pre- 
sumptuously, because he acts without warrant. 
From these principles it follows that an order of 
men invested with the character, and exercising 
what we account the office, of the ministry, is not 
only unnecessary, but also unlawful. It is ob- 
vious too that these principles are incompatible 
with a regular association. For although Christ- 
ians who hold these principles may agree as to 
the time and place of meeting, yet as often as the 
inward monitor speaks to any of them, that indivi- 
dual is set above the control of his brethren, and 
amongst any number of individuals following out 
these principles to their full extent, there cannot be 
that subordination, without which it is impossible 
for a society to subsist. 

When the Quakers first appeared in the seven- 
teenth century, they avowed, without disguise, the 
principles which have now been stated. They de- 
claimed with violence against the office of the minis- 
try as sinful ; and in that fervour of spirit which 
was cherished, partly by the novelty of their doc- 
trine, and partly by the troubled state of the times, 
they committed various outrages against those as- 
semblies of Christians, who performed the stated 

QUAKERS. 3,57 

services of religion under the direction of fixed pas- 
tors. The experience of that punishment, which 
must always be inflicted upon those who disturb the 
tranquillity of others, soon taught the Quakers great 
circumspection of conduct ; and the abilities of some 
men of learning and of extensive views, who early 
embraced this persuasion, gave their religious system 
a more plausible form, than it seemed at first capa- 
ble of admitting. Barclay's Apology, published in 
Latin, in 1675, is a well-digested exposition of fif- 
teen theses, which contain what he calls the true 
Christian theology. It is properly termed an a- 
pology ; for, while it throws into the shade the 
most obnoxious tenets of the Quakers, it presents 
all that it does publish in the most favourable 
light, and with much art and ingenuity it attempts 
to give a rational vindication of a system, which 
disclaims the use of reason. Barclay's Apology 
is the ostensible creed of the Quakers ; and, in the 
spirit which dictated that book, they have, for more 
than a century, been accommodating their i3rinciples 
to the spirit of the times. While they have insured 
the protection of government, and obtained the 
most indulgent condescension to all their scruples, 
by uniformly distinguishing themselves as orderly 
and peaceable citizens, they have adopted many inter- 
nal regulations which are fitted to preserve their ex- 
istence as a peculiar sect. There are, in every par- 
ticular meeting, two or three of the gravest and most 
respectable men, who, under the name of elders, are 
invested with a degree of authority, whose charac- 
ter claims a kind of subjection from the brethren, 
who occasionally admonish or reprove, and who 
even address a word of exhortation to those meet- 


ings, in which none of the brethren finds himself 
moved to speak. There are monthly meetings of 
the congregations in a particular district, and quar- 
terly meetings of a larger district ; and there is an 
annual meeting in London at Whitsuntide, to which 
representatives are sent from all parts of England, 
Scotland, and Ireland, which receives appeals from 
the inferior meetings, and which issues an epistle 
addressed to the brethren in all the three kingdoms, 
and containing general advice, or such particular 
directions as circumstances may seem to require. 
Here then is a great political association ; here are 
office-bearers, a subordination of courts, and a su» 
preme executive authority ; and although the power, 
both of the office-bearers and of the courts, is avow^ 
edly very limited, yet it proceeds so far as to deny, 
i. e. to exclude from the society, disorderly walkers, 
— those who are either contumacious, or whose con- 
duct, in the transactions of civil life, is such as to 
bring disgrace upon the society ; so that, in effect, 
it is all the power which any society purely eccle- 
siastical has a title to exercise. 

But although a regard to their own safety, and 
the ascendant acquired at different times by the 
wealth, the talents, or the virtues of leading men of 
the persuasion, have formed the Quakers into a 
great political association, it is manifest that their 
religious principles have no tendency to keep them 
united. To Christians who consider a standing 
ministry as useless and unlawful, and who under- 
stand that every man is to be guided in the worship 
of God purely by the impulses which he feels, there 
can be no such thing as church government properly 
so called ; and the regulations now stated have been 


adopted as a counterbalance to the disunion and dis- 
order, which are the natural consequences of this 

That we may not then regard the description of 
persons invested with church government, concern- 
ing which the Christian world has entertained va-- 
rious opinions, and all the powers which these per- ' 
sons claim, as merely a human invention, it is of 
importance, before we proceed farther in this dis- 
cussion, to satisfy ourselves that that annihilation of 
church government, which results from the tenets of 
the Quakers, is not countenanced by Scripture. 

The principles of fanaticism are repugnant hot 
only to the system of those, who consider the natu- 
ral powers of man as svifficient for the discharge of 
his duty, but also to the system of those, who be- 
lieve that the operation of the Spirit is essentially 
necessary for the conversion and the final salvation 
of a sinner. The great body of Christians, who hold 
that sj^stem, conceive that the operation of the Spirit 
is conveyed to the soul by the use of means. They 
consider the Scriptures as a complete unchangeable 
rule of faith and practice, and the ordinances of re- 
ligion as perpetual institutions to be observed by all 
Christians, according to the directions of their mas- 
ter : and, far from thinking that these means are 
superseded by the grace given to any individual, 
they understand that this grace only enables him>' 
in the diligent use of the Scriptures, and of the po- 
sitive rites of religion, to attain the " end of his faiths- 
even the salvation of his soul." 

This opinion, with regard to the manner of the 
operation of the Spirit, appears from the statement 
of it, to be sound and rational and agreeable to the 


constitution of man. It implies that there is an or- 
derly method of administering the rites of Christi- 
anity ; and as the method cannot continue orderly 
unless there are certain persons to whom this office 
is committed, the existence of such a description of 
persons is a consequence which seems fairly to re- 
sult from the opinion. When we proceed to try our 
conclusions upon this subject by their conformity 
with Scripture, the consequence now mentioned, as 
well as the opinion from which we deduced it, is 
found to receive every kind of confirmation. 

Those whom the Scriptures suppose to be led by 
the Spirit are there addressed as in the full posses- 
sion of reason, and in the habitual use of certain 
means. Our Lord, by choosing apostles, and send- 
ing them forth to make disciples of all nations, inti- 
mated that he was to employ in the conversion of 
the world, not merely an immediate illapse of the 
Spirit, but also the ministration of men holding and 
exercising an office. Of the three thousand, who 
were added to the church immediately after the ex- 
traordinary effusion of the gifts of the Spirit on the 
day of Pentecost, it is said, Acts ii. 42, n^av t^oo-zm^ts^- 
ovvng fr, hbaxfi ruv a':ro6T(j'kuv, i. e. tJwy Continued to listen to 
the teaching of the apostles, Paul gives Titus a 
charge to ordain elders in every city ;* the office- 
bearers of diffex'ent churches are occasionally men- 
tioned ; and a considerable part of the first epistle 
to the Corinthians is intended to apply a remedy to 
the disorders, which the abundance of spiritual gifts 
had occasioned in that church. For this purpose the 
apostle declares that all those gifts were distributed 
for the edification of the church ; and be delivers 

* Titus i. 5. 


this general rule, 1 Cor. xiv. 32, 33 ; " And tlie 
spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, 
as in all churches of the saints :" a rule which, when 
taken in conjunction with the occasion upon which 
it was delivered, and the reason upon which it is 
grounded, seems intended to furnish a perj^etual 
preservative against that very confusion, which 
the Quakers experienced as soon as they presumed 
to disregard it, by exalting the exercise of the sup- 
posed gifts of individuals, above the ordinary per- 
formances of a standing ministry. When they con- 
sidered the spirits of the prophets as not subject to 
the prophets, the peace of their society was continu- 
ally disturbed ; and many of the regulations adopt- 
ed in their political association were meant to apply 
a remedy to the disorder that was thus introduced. 

There is no promise in Scripture of any future 
age like that which ushered Christianity into the 
world ; and if stated teachers were required even in 
that first age, which may be called the age of the 
Spirit, because his operations were then visible in 
many that believed, it should seem that they will be 
more necessary in all succeeding ages, when his ex- 
traordinary gifts are withdrawn, and when, not- 
withstanding the pretensions of the early Quakers, 
or of the multifarious sects in modern times, found- 
ed on the principles of fanaticism. Christians have 
no warrant from Scripture to expect any other, than 
that continued influence of the Spirit, by which he 
" helpeth our infirmities." It cannot be said that 
the office of a standing ministry, although fitly vest- 
ed in the apostles, was meant to expire with them ; 
for they committed ** the form of sound words," 


which they had taught, " to faithful men, able to 
teach others also ;"* and to these men they appear 
to have conveyed part, at least, of the powers which 
they derived from their master. The epistle to the 
Philippians is addressed, " to all the saints at Phi- 
lippi, with the bishops and deacons."f Peter thus 
exhorts " the elders ; feed the flock of God whicli is 
among you, taking the oversight thereof." i. In other 
epistles Christians are commanded " to esteem those 
that are over them in the Lord," and to " obey them 
that have the rule over them, and that watch for 
their souls." § The epistles to Timothy and Titus 
direct them in the exercise of that authority which 
they had received, and mention office-bearers of dif- 
ferent ranks in the Christian society, vested with 
special powers. In the book of the Revelation there 
are letters to the seven churches of Asia, /*. e. to re- 
gular Christian associations then formed in seven 
different cities of Asia Minor ; and the letters are 
addressed, not to the churches, although they con- 
tain much general exhortation, but to the angels, or 
ministers of the churches ; which is a proof, that in 
every church there was a person distinguished from 
the rest, and qualified by his station to distribute 
the exhortations with effect. 

There is one place in the New Testament, where 
we can trace the succession of Christian teachers be- 
yond the immediate successors of the apostles. If 
you compare the 7th and 17th verses of Hebrews 
xiii. you will find that the apostle speaks in the 7th 

* 2 Tim. ii. 2. t Phil. i. 1. 

t I Pet. V. 1, 2. § I Thess. v, 12, 13. Hcb. xiii. 17- 


verse of persons then deceased, wlio had had tlie 
rule over the Hebrews, and had spoken to them the 
word of God ; and in the 17th verse of persons then 
alive, who had the rule over them, and were at that 
time watching for their souls : so that the Hebrews, 
after having been illuminated by the apostles, and 
confirmed in the faith by a second set of teachers, 
were enjoying the ministrations of a third. The 
succession, which we are thus able to trace in Scrip- 
ture, is agreeable to the promise which our Lord 
made to his apostles when he left them : -/mi idov, syu 

(US' -jiMW iifii <7raa(x,g rag ijfxs^ccg, lojg 7y\g cm-iKuag tou aiojvog. The 

duration of the promise was not exhausted by the 
time during which the apostles abode upon earth, 
but reaches to the end of that age which the Mes- 
siah introduced ; and therefore the promise must be 
understood as conveying an assurance of the pre- 
sence of Jesus with those, who, in all the periods of 
that age, succeed to the office of the apostles. 

The same idea of the perpetuity of the office of 
the ministry is expressed by Paul in a remarkable 
passage, Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13. He had mentioned the 
gifts which Christ, when he ascended, received for 
men, and which he distributes to every one as he 
will. He states, as one immediate end attained by 

the distribution of the gifts, v^og rov -/.araoTiCiLa-i Tcjv djiuv, 

ng loyw hazovtag. But this work, being, as the name 
implies, ministerial, or subservient to a higher end, 
must continue till that end be attained. The higher 
end is, the unity in faith, and the perfection in vir- 
tue, of all the elect of God ; an end which the dis- 
pensations of providence and grace are carrying 
forward, but which, in the nature of things, cannot 
be accomplished during this state of trial. From 


the apostle, then, we learn, that till the end of the 
world, the work of the ministry is to continue, as 
we had learned from the promise of Jesus, that till 
the end of the world he is to be with those who are 
employed in that work. 

These are the heads of argument which the mem- 
bers of the church of Rome, and of the Episcopal 
and Presbyterian churches agree in opposing to the 
presumptuous conclusion, by which a spirit of fana- 
ticism would represent the offices of a standing 
ministry as useless ; and the consent of the great 
body of Christians in the use of these arguments 
may encourage us to assume in the beginning of this 
discussion, as an established point, that the general 
idea of church government, and the existence of a 
particular description of men invested with that 
kind of rule which church government implies, 
are agreeable to Scripture. 



The opinion which falls naturally to be stated in 
the second place, concerning the description of per- 
sons invested with church government, is that which 
was held by the Independents of the seventeenth 

Robinson, the author of the sect to which this 
name properly belongs, had been educated in that 
presumptuous fanaticism, which regards the office 


of a standing ministry as useless. But conviction 
or expediency led him to adopt a more moderate 
opinion with regard to church government ; and that 
opinion, after being improved and digested for a 
course of years, was published in 1658, in the decla- 
ration of their faith, then emitted by the Independ- 
ent congregations in England. The leading princi- 
ple of their system is thus expressed by themselves. 
" Every particular society of visible professors, 
agreeing to walk together in the faith and order of 
the Gospel, is a complete church, and has full power 
within itself to elect and ordain all church officers, 
to exclude all offenders, and to do all other acts 
relating to the edification and well-being of the 
church." * 

According to this fundamental principle it is un- 
derstood by the Independents that any number of 
Christians, whom neighbourhood and agreement in 
opinion as to the great doctrines of the Gospel lead 
to assemble for public worship in the same place, 
possess within themselves all the power that is im- 
plied under the notion of church government. The 
whole body retains, in its own hands, the power of 
admitting and excluding members ; but for the or- 
derly administration of the sacraments, and the re- 
gular performance of various offices that may mi- 
nister to edification, the whole body sets apart with 
religious solemnity, certain persons under the name 
of pastors, teachers, or elders, who derive their title 
to act in that capacity solely from the nomination of 
the society, and who, in virtue of that nomination, 
are the only persons entitled to perform within that 

* Neale. iv. lG4>. 


society the acts connected with their character. As 
every assembly of Christians is conceived to be a 
complete church, immediately under Christ, and in- 
dependent of all other churches, those who adopted 
this scheme were originally called Independents; but 
as that name came to be employed in a political sense, 
and was applied, during the commotions of the seven- 
teenth century, to many who entertained principles 
hostile to civil government, those who wished to hold 
themselves forth as peaceable subjects of the powers 
that were, and as distinguished from other Christ- 
ians, merely by their peculiar notions of church go- 
vernment, chose rather to take the name of Congre- 
gational Brethren. The name implies all that is 
meant by the word Independents, when used in an 
ecclesiastical sense, and marks this as their principle, 
that every separate congregation has all the powers 
of church government, of which it delegates such 
portion as it pleases to its own officers. 

This principle is held with different modifications 
by several of the more recent sects which have arisen 
in Scotland, and by a considerable part of the Eng- 
lish dissenters. From peculiar tenets they may be 
known by other names, but in church government 
they are Independents ; and although the spirit of 
the constitution of the two established churches in 
Britain is most opposite to Independency, yet some 
approach to it may often be discerned in the senti- 
ments, and the conduct, of many individual members 
of both churches. Indeed it appears to me the pre- 
vailing error of the times in relation to church go- 
vernment, — the opinion which, without due care in 
fortifying the mind, there is the greatest danger of 


In order to prove their fundamental principle the 
Independents attempt to show, that all the churches 
mentioned in the New Testament were single con- 
gregations which met in one place. But you will 
probably be satisfied that they fail in the attempt. 
The labours of the apostles in planting the four prin- 
cipal churches that are spoken of in the book of Acts, 
Jerusalem, Corinth, Antioch, and Ephesus, the suc- 
cess of their labours, and the number of teachers and 
prophets who ministered under the apostles to a 
multitude of believers, are mentioned in such terms 
as render it impossible for us to suppose, that all the 
Christians in any of the four cities could assemble 
together ; more especially when we consider that the 
Christians were not at that time in possession of any 
public places of worship, and that they would be so- 
licitous to avoid any ostentation of their number, be- 
cause their meetings, instead of being authorised by 
the laws of the state, were obnoxious to the magi- 
strate. Yet the different congregations, into which 
the Christians of every one of these four cities were 
from necessity divided, are spoken of in the New 
Testament as one body. For although the separate 
associations of Christians in different provinces are 
thus designed, " the churches throughout all Judea, 
and Galilee, and Samaria,"* the plural is never ap- 
plied to the Christians of one city, but we read of 
" the church which was in Jerusalem, the church at 
Corinth, the church at Antioch, the church at Ephe- 
sus ;" so that whatever was the bond of union among 
the different congregations of one city, the apostles 

* Acts ix. SI 


seem to have considered them as constituting one 

But even although we should allow the Independ- 
ents the proposition which they attempt to prove, it 
does not appear that they would gain much. If, in 
the times of which the book of Acts gives the history, 
all the Christians of every city might conveniently 
assemble for worship in one place, such regulations 
as suited this scanty number could not be a proper 
pattern for after-times, when Christians multiplied 
beyond the possibility of meeting together : and if 
in the one congregation which was formed at first, 
many individuals and many families were united by 
their common faith under one government, this early 
union, which was all that the circumstances of the 
case required, is very far from implying any con- 
demnation of that future union of different congre- 
gations, which their vicinity might prompt. 

The state of the congregations described in the 
'New Testament not furnishing Scripture-authority, 
or, what was called in the seventeenth centuiy, a 
divine right for the Independent form of government, 
the plea of authority must be set aside, and we are 
left to try the fundamental principle of this form by 
those general maxims, which are founded in reason 
and Scripture. 

In appreciating its merits, there are three conces- 
sions which will be readily made by every impartial 

1. We admit that the Independent form of go- 
vernment is very much superior to the presumptuous, 
unconnected spirit of fanaticism : for it implies the 
l)erpetual obligation of the positive rites of Christ- 
ianity ; it provides, by the appointment of aparticu- 


lar order of men, for their being regularly adminis- 
tered; and it exhibits not a political association, but 
an ecclesiastical society possessing and exerting the 
powers, which it believes to be founded in the insti- 
tution of Christ, and which it considers as necessary 
for its preservation. 

2. We admit that church government was insti- 
tuted, not for the aggrandizement of any order of 
men, but for the edification of the people. If the 
form of government adopted by the Independents is 
radically defective, the defect does not lie in their 
mistaking the object of church power, but in their 
confounding the source from which it flows, with 
the purpose for which it is conferred. They were 
led into the mistake by their experience of what they 
considered as abuses of church power, what they ac- 
counted acts of oppression and invasions of the rights 
of conscience, under the ecclesiastical government of 
men who professed to derive their power from a 
higher source ; and they thought that they should 
effectually guard against the introduction of such 
abuses in the separate societies which they formed, 
by declaring as their fundamental principle, that the 
power, which was to be exerted for their edification, 
resided originally in themselves, and was delegated 
by them to their own officers. 

3. We admit that cases may occur where the 
principles of the Independents must be followed out 
in practice. If a body of Christians were, by any 
calamity, placed for a length of time in such a situ- 
ation, that it was impossible for them to obtain the 
ministrations of a person regularly invested with 
the pastoral character, — placed in an island without 
a pastor, and separated from all other Christian so- 

VOL. III. 2 b 


cieties, it would still continue their duty to join in 
the worship of God, and to celebrate the rites of 
Christianity : but that these services might be per- 
formed in a manner the most orderly, and the most 
agreeable to the institution of Christ which circum- 
stances permitted, it would also be their duty to call 
from among themselves the persons whom they 
thought best qualified to preside in the public wor- 
ship, and to administer the rites ; and it is not to be 
doubted that the blessing of God would supply the 
unavoidable defect. 

But even after these three concessions are made, 
the Independent form of government remains liable 
to strong objections, in respect both of the mode of 
appointment to the office of the ministry v/hich it 
enacts, and of the disunion of the Christian society 
which it implies. 

In illustrating these two objections, which are in- 
timately connected together, I shall state the sub- 
stance of the treatises written in the seventeenth 
century, in opposition to the congregational bre- 

I. This method of conveying the office of the 
ministry by the act of the people not only is desti- 
tute of the authority of any example in the New 
Testament, but is contrary to the spirit of all the di- 
rections there given upon that subject. Our Lord 
chose men to be apostles, endowed them with the 
necessary qualifications, and then gave them a com- 
mission to preach and to baptize. We read in the 
short history of their progress, that they ordained 
elders in the churches. Paul speaks to Timothy of 
" the gift which is in thee, by the putting on of 
my hands, of the gift which was given thee by pi'o- 


pliecjs with the laying on of the hands of the pres- 
hyteiy i"^ he says to Titus, " for this cause, left I 
thee in Crete, that thou shouldst ordain elders in 
every city, as I had appointed thee ;"f and he en- 
joins Timothy to " lay hands suddenly on no man.":j: 
These passages, when taken together, seem to im- 
ply that the oiBce of the ministry, which Timothy 
and Titus had received from Paul, and other office- 
hearers joined with him, was with like solemn im- 
position of hands to be conveyed by them to others. 
It is true that in Acts vi. the apostles desire the 
multitude of the disciples to look out among them 
seven men of honest report to superintend, with the 
name of deacons, the daily ministration of their 
charity. But although there was a manifest pro- 
priety in desiring the people to propose the persons, 
whom they judged worthy of being intrusted with 
the distribution of their charity, yet the men thus 
nominated did not begin the distribution till they 
received from the apostles a solemn appointment ; 
and with regard to those offices in the church which 
were not, like the office of deacons, chiefly secular, 
but which implied the exercise of spiritual authority, 
there is not any passage, which, when fairly exam- 
ined, will be found to intimate that it was conferred 
by the act of the people. One passage which is 
chiefly relied on as giving countenance to Indepen- 
dency IS Acts XIV. 23 5 yiiooTovrisavng ds avroig TTosffCvTs^ovg aar 
£x/.X'/3(7;av. But bcsides that ;^2/oo7oi/s/i', before the time of 
Luke, was used for simple designation, without the 
exercise of suffrage, as is plain from his own expres- 

* 1 Tim. iv. 14. 2 Tim. i. (?. t Titus i. 5. 

X 1 Tim. V. 22. 


sion, Acts X. 41, it is applied in this passage, not to 
the people, but to Paul and Barnabas, so that what- 
ever be the meaning of the word, it can only be 
considered as making known the part, which these 
disciples took in the appointment of elders. 

Accordingly the qualifications of those who were 
to be made bishops, and elders, and deacons, are men- 
tioned, not in epistles to the churches, but in epistles 
to Timothy and Titus, who are directed to the pro- 
per method of trying such as might be admitted to 
take part with them in overseeing the church of God. 
The judgment of the qualifications is vested in those 
who, having been themselves found qualified, may 
be supposed capable of trying others ; their act, fol- 
lowing upon their approbation, is the solemn inves- 
titure of those whom they have found worthy ; and 
they are the instruments by which Jesus Christ con- 
veys to that order of men, which he meant to con- 
tinue in his church till the end of the world, the au- 
thority implied in the exercise of their office. 

II. The second great objection to the Independ- 
ent form of government is the disimion of the 
Christian society which it implies. It considers 
the followers of Jesus as constituting so many se- 
parate associations, every one of which cares for 
itself, is complete within itself, and has only a 
casual connexion with others. If, therefore, in the 
exercise of the separate authority of any congrega- 
tion, wrong be done to an individual, he is left, while 
he remains a member of that congregation, without 
the possibility of redress ; and if neighbouring asso- 
ciations should quarrel, which, considering the ca- 
price and violence of human passions, is perhaps not 
much less likely than that they will live in peace, no 
method is provided for terminating their dissensions. 


or for preserving, amidst these dissensions, the con- 
tinuance of their agreement in any common princi- 
ples. But this is directly opposite to the Scripture 
idea of the Christian society, or Catholic church, 
which is represented as " one body," professing one 
faith, separated, indeed, by the necessity of circum- 
stances into associations meeting in different places, 
but retaining amidst this separation all the unity 
which is possible. To this Catholic church, found- 
ed by the labours of the apostles, spread in idolatrous 
nations by the preaching of those whom the apostles 
ordained, and still maintained and extended in the 
world by the ministrations of all the servants of 
Christ, the promises are made ; for it gifts continue 
to be distributed ; and the rites, which the great 
body of Christians agree in celebrating, are the rites 
not of this or that association, but of the church of 
Christ. A person must receive baptism from a par- 
ticular association ; but, by being baptized, he be- 
comes a member of the great society ; or, in the lan- 
guage of the book of Acts, " he is added to the 
church." He must join in the Lord's Supper with 
a particular body of Christians ; but by eating that 
one bread, and drinking that one cup, he holds com- 
munion with all in every place, who " show the 
Lord's death." When he forfeits, by his own fault, 
his right to be numbered amongst that body of 
Christians with whom he formerly associated, he 
ceases to be a member of the Catholic church ; and 
he remains without the church, till he be found 
worthy of being readmitted by those who had ex- 
cluded him. 

According to these views, the different meetings 
of Christians are branches of one society, united as 


parts of a whole; and the first thing which enters 
into our conception of the society is the whole, while 
the circumstances, which rendered it necessary for 
this whole to be divided, are a matter only of second- 
ary consideration. "When, therefore, in our specu- 
lations concerning that government which " God 
hath set in the church," we begin with considering 
government in reference to the whole, and from thence 
descend to the several divisions, we follow the order 
of nature. Whereas, if, like the Independents, we 
confine our attention to the divisions, we lose sight 
of the unity of that which is divided ; and, as we 
invert the process by which the society that we ana- 
lyze was constituted and enlarged, we shall probably 
arrive at conclusions unfounded in fact, and very re- 
mote from the intention of the Author of the society. 
If every association of Christians be vievved as in- 
dependent of every other, it will unavoidably follow 
that ordination is the act of the people ; for whence 
is a separate unconnected body of Christians to re- 
ceive a pastor, unless from their own nomination ? 
But if we preserve the view of a great society divid- 
ed into many branches, then it follows, that in the 
same manner as every one who is baptized becomes 
a member of the catholic church, so every one who 
is ordained, by the laying on of the hands of the of- 
fice-bearers of the church, becomes a minister of the 
church universal. He is invested with that charac- 
ter, in a manner the most agreeable to the example 
and the directions contained in the New Testament ; 
and by this investiture he receives authority to per- 
form all the acts belonging to the character. He 
cannot perform these acts to the church universal, 
Jbecause it is nowhere assembled ; and the separa- 


tioii of the church universal renders it expedient, 
that the place in which he is to perform them shall 
be marked out to him. But this assignation of 
place is merely a matter of order, which is not es- 
sential to his character, which does not detract from 
the powers implied in his character, and which 
serves no other purpose than to specify the bounds 
in which the church universal, by the hands of whose 
ministers he received the power, requires that the 
powers shall be exercised. 

What is the most proper manner of assigning the 
limits for the exercise of the powers conveyed by or- 
dination, is a question which has been violently agi- 
tated both in ancient and in modern times. It was 
the subject of the controversy w^hich was waged for 
many centuries between the Pope and the princes of 
Europe, about what was called the investiture of 
church benefices ; and it is the same question which 
has appeared in Scotland under the form of a com- 
petition between patronage, a call by heritors and 
elders, and popular election. The decision of this 
question, in every country, depends upon civil regu- 
lations ; and if the church proceeds without the au- 
thority of the state, to assign the limits of exercising 
ministerial powers, she introduces a collision between 
the civil and ecclesiastical governments. Her bu- 
siness is to convey the powers to those whom she 
finds qualified. By ordination they become minis- 
ters of the church universal ; for, having been tried 
by a particular branch of the church, acting in the 
name of Jesus, and in virtue of the trust derived 
from him, they receive authority and a commission 
to perform all the acts, which belong to those who 
are called in Scripture ambassadors, stewards, ru- 


lers, and overseers. Subsequent to this authority 
and commission, and essentially distinct from it in 
nature, although often conjoined with it in prac- 
tice, is the invitation or appointment, applying the 
exercise of the authority to a particular district of 
the church. The invitation, when Christians are 
not recognised by the laws of the land as entitled to 
their protection, is, of necessity, and of right, the 
act of the people to whom the person is to minister ; 
but when Christianity enjoys the benefit of being 
incorporated with the constitution of the state, it 
comes, in consequence of that civil advantage, to be 
modified in such manner as the government of the 
state is pleased to direct. 

You will find yourselves involved in inextricable 
difficulties upon many questions in church govern- 
ment, unless you are careful thus to separate in your 
minds ordination, which is the appointment of Jesus 
Christ, conveying a character by the instrumentali- 
ty of the office-bearers of his church, from the elec- 
tion of a minister, which is the appointment of men 
applying or limiting the exercise of this character, in 
such manner as they please, and with more or less 
wisdom, as it happens. It is the leading feature in the 
system of Independency to confound these two ; and 
you will find, in your future experience of ecclesias- 
tical business, that all the approaches to Indepen- 
dency, which appear in the sentiments or the con- 
duct of particular persons, arise from their not keep- 
ing them perfectly distinct. Whenever ordination 
is considered as the act of Jesus Christ, by his of- 
fice-bearers constituting a minister of the church 
universal, the idea of one great society is preserved. 
The whole may be diversified in outward circum- 


stances, but it does not cease to be a whole ; for, 
from this principle there result subordination to su- 
periors, which is essential to church government, 
and a bond of union amongst those, who are so far 
removed in place as not to be amenable to the same 
earthly superior. But whenever ordination is con- 
founded with election, the unity of the great so- 
ciety is lost ; the whole is crumbled into factions ; 
there is no legal redress for the wrong which may 
be done by small unrelated jurisdictions ; and there 
is no constitutional mean of deciding the contro- 
versies, which, arising among the separate associa- 
tions merely from their neighbourhood, may disturb 
their peace and imbitter their minds. 

I have entered thus fully into the discussion of 
the Independent form of government, because, in 
canvassing its merits, I have been led to lay down 
some fundamental principles of church government, 
in which Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Pres- 
byterians, are agreed, and which we shall carry along 
with us in comparing their different schemes. These 
principles are the foundation of a distinction, which, 
although not expressed in Scriptural terms, appears 
to us agreeable to Scriptural views ; I mean the dis- 
tinction very early made between the clergy and the 
laity. We shall afterwards find, that this distinc- 
tion has been supposed to imply powers and exemp- 
tions on the part of the clergy, to which no order of 
men derives any title from the Gospel of Christ ; 
and a submission on the part of the laity, to which 
no order of men is there degraded. But the dis- 
tinction is not the less real that it has been abused ; 
and it is proper that it should be maintained, both 
in opposition to those, who add to all the other con- 


teinpt which they pour upon the Gospel, by repre- 
senting the Christian priesthood as a political contri- 
vance, a continuation of the same craft which im- 
posed upon the vulgar in the times of idolatry ; and 
also in opposition to those Christians, who, professing 
to reverence the Scriptures, attempt to guard against 
the abuse of church power, and to I'econcile the 
mention made of it in Scripture to their notions of 
liberty, by representing it as given by Christ to the 
people, and transferred by them at their pleasure to 
those whom they choose. Against both, we Presby^ 
terians join with the church of Rome and the church 
of England, in holding that the persons vested with 
church government derive their powers, not from 
the people, but from Jesus Christ by his ministers ; 
and our church has, in her Confession of Faith, ex- 
pressed this fundamental proposition in the follow- 
ing words : " The Lord Jesus, as King and Head 
of his church, hath therein appointed a government 
in the hand of church-officers, distinct from the civil 



In stating the system of the church of Rome, with 
regard to the description of persons invested with 
church government, which is diametrically opposite 
to that of the Independents, it is necessary to begin 


with illustrating the distinction between those, who 
are called Papists, and those, v/ho are called Roman 

The Papists hold that the bishop of Rome, com- 
monly known by the name of the Pope, has, as the 
successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, a pri- 
macy over the great society of Christians ; that he 
is the vicar of Christ upon earth, the visible head of 
the universal church, whose power extends over all 
its members ; that as he may himself enact laws 
binding upon the whole church, determine all con- 
troversies by his own infallible authority, and either 
inflict censures or grant absolution according to his 
pleasure, so he is the fountain of pastoral jurisdic- 
tion and dignity, from whom all who exercise the 
powers of church government in any district of the 
Christian v/orld ought to receive their commission, 
to whom they are bound to swear true obedience in 
the discharge of their office, and to whom they are 
accountable ; that as their persons and their actions 
are in all things under his control, so the sentences 
which they pronounce in the exercise of the powers 
committed to them are subject to his revisal ; that 
appeals may be made from all ecclesiastical judica- 
tories to the judgment of tlie bishop of Rome ; but 
that he himself is not obliged to give account to any, 
and that from his sentence there is no appeal. 

This is the complete system of church govern- 
ment avowed in the public confessions of their faith, 
by those who are properly called Papists. But this 
system is not held in its full extent by all who pro- 
fess the doctrine, and adhere to the communion of 
the church of Rome, The Papists derive their 
name from their attachment to the Pope, their be- 


lief of his infallibility, and their submission to his 
sovereign and uncontrollable power. Those who 
call themselves Roman Catholics acknowledge that 
the bishop of Rome, the most dignified member of 
the church universal, and the successor of Peter, 
holds a primacy and superiority which they consider 
as a common centre of unity to the whole society, 
and to which they are willing to pay a becoming 
respect. But they do not allow the personal infal- 
libility of the Pope ; they consider the head as sub- 
ject, no less than the members, to the decrees of the 
church universal ; and if the head should attempt 
to infringe the constitutions of the church univer- 
sal, should violate the rights of particular churches, 
or should err in matters of faith, they conceive that 
it is competent for a general council to correct his 
mal-administration ; to maintain the liberties of the 
whole body, and of the several parts in opposition to 
his encroachments ; to defend the truth which he 
abandons ; and, if other means do not appear suf- 
ficient, to provide for the safety or reformation of 
the church, by suspending or deposing him from his 

This doctrine was declared by many general coun- 
cils held in the 15th and I6th centuries, several of 
which proceeded to follow out their doctrine into 
practice, by pronouncing sentence upon Popes, whom 
they considered as heretical or contumacious. It 
Avas the subject of endless discussions in those days, 
between the doctors of Italy, who maintained the 
infallible and uncontrollable authority of the Pope, 
and the doctors of France, who considered him as 
subject to the decrees of general coimcils. The for- 
mer boldly set the Pope above all general councils ; 


the latter held that no Papa simply, but Papa cum 
coticUio, is the head of the church. This last opin- 
ion, although it appears to impose a most reason- 
able restraint upon the exorbitant power of one man, 
was involved in many difficulties. For, even ad- 
mitting the opinion to be true, it remains to be in- 
quired, who is to summon the general council which 
is to control and try the Pope ; who is to preside 
in it ; who are to have the right of voting, and what 
constitutes a free general council, in whose censure 
of the first officer of the church the whole Christian 
world is bound to acquiesce ? The difficulties at- 
tending these questions, which satisfy us in our 
days, that a general council is a thing impracticable, 
were very much multiplied to those, who, even 
while they wished to correct the abuses of papal 
power, professed to retain a high veneration for the 
bishop of Rome, as the successor of Peter ; and it is 
not always easy to reconcile the connexion, which 
the Roman Catholics are desirous to maintain with 
the Pope, and the doctrine by which they make him 
inferior to a council. 

Notwithstanding these difficulties, however, this 
doctrine spread, both before and after the Reforma- 
tion, through many parts of Christendom, the inha- 
bitants of which wished to be delivered from the 
grievances of papal usurpation, although they were 
not prepared to follow the first reformers, so far as 
to depart from the received articles of faith, and to 
separate from the communion of the church of Rome. 
It became, even in the seventeenth century, the na- 
tional creed of France, where the civil and ecclesias- 
tical powers united in declaring, not only that the 
Pope is, in spiritual matters, subject to a general 


council, but that, in temporal matters, he has no so- 
vereignty or authority over the rulers of those states 
who are in communion with him. These two posi- 
tions constitute, what were called in those days, the 
liberties of the Galilean church. They have been 
uniformly and zealously maintained in opposition to 
the claims of the Pope, even while profound venera- 
tion was expressed for his person, and while the 
estabhshed faith of the kingdom consisted of the te- 
nets of the Apostolical See of Rome, without any 
mixture, often without any toleration of the opinions 
of the Reformers. 

The Catholics of Great Britain have, of late, so- 
lemnly disclaimed that entire subjection to the Pope, 
wdiich forms the distinguishing character of Papists ; 
and, instead of taking the name of Roman Catholics, 
which might seem to imply a connexion approach- 
ing to a dependence upon the church of Rome, they 
call themselves simply the Catholics of Great Bri- 
tain. Even in those countries which profess still to 
believe in the sovereignty of the Pope, the changes 
upon the state of Europe, the progress of science, and 
the view of those blessings v/hich their neighbours 
have derived from the Reformation, are undermining 
that fabric which was reared in times of ferocity and 
ignorance ; and the papal power, which has already 
lost almost all its terrors to those who acknowledge 
its existence, v/ill probably, at no very distant period, 
become, throughout the whole extent of Christendom, 
the tale of former years. 

The progress of Popery is one of the most inter- 
esting portions of ecclesiastical history. The slow, 
but sure steps with which this power advanced, dur- 
ing a course of ages, to the greatness which it at- 



tained, the skill and artifice with which its preten- 
sions were gradually extended, the multiplicity of 
interests which were combined in its support, and 
the profound policy with which it distributed through 
all Christian states many zealous champions of its 
claims — all together form a picture, which arrests the 
attention of every intelligent observer of human af- 
fairs, and is fitted to administer much useful instruc- 
tion. It is not my province to fill up or to colour 
this picture. I have only to discuss the arguments 
upon which the Bishop of Rome professed to build 
his claims : and if these arguments shall appear to 
you a very slender foundation for such a superstruc- 
ture, you must have recourse to the history of popery 
for an explication of the manner in which it was 
reared, and of the props by which it was supported ; 
you must recollect that arguments, which the plain- 
est understanding now perceives to be remote, in- 
conclusive, and inapplicable to the subject, found the 
minds of men in such a state of preparation for re- 
ceiving them, that they were assented to without be- 
ing examined ; and you must not be surprised, if an 
ordinary eye, now that the charm is broken, can dis- 
cern all the deformity of an object, which was long 
seen at a distance, through a deceitful medium, and 
was esteemed too sacred and too magnificent for close 

The extent of the papal power receives a specious 
support from the unity, which it seems to give to 
the Catholic church. While the Independent form 
of government breaks one great society into many 
imconnected parts, the sovereignty of the Pope forms 
a common centre of unity to the various associations, 


into which Christians, from the necessity of circum- 
stances, must be divided. If there is one visible head, 
whom all of them acknowledge, his authority, per- 
vading the great society, controlling and regulating 
all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, is fitted to preserve that 
consent in articles of faith, and that uniformity in 
worship and rites, which, however agreeable to the 
nature of the Christian society, the wide extent of 
it seems to render impracticable without such a par- 
amount authority. " The Son of God," says Bos- 
suet, in his Exposition of the Doctrine of the Catho- 
lic Church, " being desirous his church should be 
one, and solidly built upon unity, hath established 
and instituted the primacy of St. Peter to maintain 
and cement it ; upon which account, we acknowledge 
this primacy in the successors of St. Peter, the prince 
of the apostles, which is the common centre of all 
Catholic unity." 

The argument, when proposed in this general 
form, has a specious appearance. But there are many 
steps between the first position, that Jesus Christ 
intended his church should be one, and the last po- 
sition, that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome ought 
to be acknowledged by all Christians ; and when we 
come to analyze the argument, by tracing the con- 
nexion which the first position has with the last, the 
weakness of the whole cause opens upon us at every 

Although Jesus often expressed a desire that his 
church should be one, and although an endeavour to 
maintain unity is earnestly recommended to his dis- 
ciples, it does not follow that they were to have that 
kind of unity which arises from subjection to one 


visible head. Jesus is himself styled " the head of 
the body, the church."* His prayer for those who 
should believe on him, through the word of the 
apostles, is this, " that they. Father, may be one in 
us."f When the apostle speaks of one body, one 
spirit, one faith, he speaks also of one Lord, that is, 
Christ.:^ As this Lord shall continue till the end of 
the world to rule in his kingdom, he may employ 
other means besides the government of a visible 
head to preserve unity. It is possible too, that 
knowledge of the truth, attachment to one Saviour, 
and the excitements of love and mutual forbearance 
inspired by his religion, may be the chief bonds of 
union which he intended should subsist amongst his 
followers ; and that attempts to establish a stricter 
uniformity than what results from these principles 
may be attended with greater evils, and may be more 
repugnant to the spirit of the Gospel, than those 
breaches of unity which the power of a visible head 
might correct. 

When perfect wisdom and perfect goodness are 
united in the character of a person, his power will 
be exerted for the best purposes ; and the extent of 
his power may insure the harmony, as well as the 
happiness, of those who are subject to it. But such 
a character is not to be found upon earth ; and all 
the experience of mankind teaches them to provide 
for the security of their rights, by imposing such li- 
mitations as may guard most effectually against the 
abuse of power. In one place, Matth. xx» 25, 26, 
our Lord warn& his disciples against thinking that 
they were entitled to exercise in his name that kind 

* Col. i. 18. t John xvii. 21. J Ephes. iv. 4. 5. 

VOL. 111. 2 C 


of co-active authority, by which the princes of the 
earth maintain their sovereignty. In another place, 
M atth. xxiii. 8, 9, he warns his disciples against sub- 
mitting their understandings to men, and requires 
the free and manly exercise of their own judgment, 
both as a testimony of the respect due to him, and 
as a security against their being turned aside from 
his doctrine. Although such warnings, when com- 
pared with other passages of Scripture, do not con- 
demn church government in general, they certainly 
modify the authority that is to be exercised, and the 
subjection that is to be yielded ; and therefore they 
imply a condemnation of a form of church govern- 
ment, which, by committing Christians in all places 
of the world to the inspection and the absolute go- 
vernment of one man, exalts him to a station, and 
intrusts him with an office, to which the natural 
powers of the wisest and the best of the sons of men 
are wholly inadequate. 

It will be said, indeed, that inspiration can easily 
supply the unavoidable defects of human nature, and 
that the information and comprehension of the vicar 
of Christ upon earth may, in this way, be rendered 
commensurate to the extent of his office. But as 
our judgment of the proper seasons and degrees of in- 
spiration ought always to proceed, not upon our own 
speculations, but upon our experience of what God 
has done ; so when we attend to the fact in this case, 
it does not appear that such a measure of inspiration 
as the office requires has been bestowed, because the 
effects of the sovereignty claimed and exercised by 
the bishop of Rome have by no means corresponded 
to the advantages, which are stated as a presump- 
tion in support of the claim. Protestants hold that 


it has not preserved purity of doctrine ; for they 
think they are able to prove that the faith of the 
church of Rome is, in many important articles, con- 
trary to Scripture. All who read ecclesiastical his- 
tory must acknowledge that it has not preserved 
the unity of the church ; for the Eastern church 
never submitted to the authority of the Pope. Many 
parts of Europe have, since the Reformation, dis- 
claimed all subjection to him ; and there has, in all 
ages, been much difference of opinion, even amongst 
those who professed to believe that he is the vicar 
of Christ. Popes have contradicted one another up- 
on articles of faith : tiie controversies respecting pre- 
destination and grace have agitated the Romish no 
less than the Reformed churches ; and the attempts- 
of the Roman Pontiff, by his authority, to define the 
ceremonies of religion, have often produced alterca- 
tion, mutual hatred, and persecution. 

Had the Roman empire maintained its oscendancy^ 
over the nations of the earth, advantages might have 
resulted from the primacy of a visible head of the 
church. If from the same city, which was the mis- 
tress of the world, the mandates of the supreme ruler 
of the Christian society had been transmitted to the 
separate associations in the most remote regions, 
this would have been a centre of unity, however dis- 
cordant from the simple unassuming spirit of the 
Gospel, yet certainly analogous to the political situ- 
ation of human affairs, and admirably fitted to pre- 
serve an uniformity in religious rites. But when the 
Roman empire was dismembered, when independent 
princes arose throughout the whole extent of Christ- 
endom, and that civil government, which, in all the 
different modifications that circumstances may give 


it in different countries, is the ordinance of God, was 
vested in the hands of persons who had no connex- 
ion with Rome, the existence of a supreme ecclesi- 
astical power residing in that city, and issuing its 
mandates to the ends of the earth, came to be attend- 
ed with insuperable difficulties ; and what in the 
former case might have been a centre of unity, was 
converted into a principle of discord, and a perpe- 
tual source of contention, A sovereign pontiff, who 
claimed from the clergy in every state an implicit 
obedience to all his injunctions, who could summon 
them at his pleasure from any part of the world, who 
reviewed all their sentences, and who could call to 
his own court the trial of any cause, which came 
in the first instance before them, was formidable to 
civil government. This foreign jurisdiction inter- 
rupted the orderly proceedings of every state ; it 
weakened the authority of the magistrate ; it creat- 
ed an interest in opposition to the public good ; 
and it afforded various pretexts for superinducing 
very dangerous civil claims. Accordingly, the his- 
tory of a great part of Europe, and particularly of 
Britain for a considerable time, is occupied with col- 
lisions between the jurisdiction claimed by the Pope, 
and that which the sovereigns of Europe considered 
as of right belonging to themselves within their own 
territories. In England the Reformation did not 
begin with the discussion of points of doctrine. It 
originated in resistance to the growing encroach- 
ments of the court of Rome ; and it was accomplish- 
ed by law, because the sovereign, the clergy, and the 
people felt that their rights were invaded. 

Any person who recollects the submission which 
our Lord and his apostles uniformly yielded to the 


civil power, the many exhortations to obedience 
which the epistles contain, and the quiet accommodat- 
ing spirit in all things not sinful, which the Gospel 
forms, will not readily believe that the method, 
vrhich Christ adopted for preserving the unity of his 
church, was a method so hostile to the peace of so- 
ciety ; and any person who considers that the Gos- 
pel, assuming the character of an universal religion, 
delivers, with consummate wisdom, doctrines and 
precepts which readily apply to all different situa- 
tions, v/ill perceive the inconsistency of supposing 
that it would create a perpetual dependence upon a 
particular city, in which one of its ministers resided ; 
and by this single circumstance, would subject the 
disciples, who were to be gathered out of all nations, 
to many of the inconveniences of a local institution. 
It appears, then, that when we come to reason 
from the unity of the church to the primacy of the 
bishop of Rome, there arise, upon general grounds, 
very strong objections against this specious argu- 
ment ; and we require the most satisfying direct evi- 
dence that a method of preserving unity, in itself so 
exceptionable, is, indeed, the appointment of Christ, 
The Papists assert that it is: and if they could 
prove what they assert, our notions of inexpediency 
would yield to his authority. 

Their assertion consists of three positions, every 
one of which must be proved ; that our Lord gave 
to Peter a primacy over all the other apostles — that 
Peter was Bishop of Rome — and that it was the in- 
tention of Christ, that the powers possessed by Peter 
should be transmitted to the Bishops of Rome in all 
succeeding ages. If they fail in the proof of any 
one of these positions, the primacy of the Pope ber 


comes a human invention, which may be wise or 
unwise, but which cannot be regarded as the insti- 
tution of Christ. 

As to the primacy of Peter, they argue from Pe- 
ter's appearing throughout the Gospels more ready 
to speak and to act than the other apostles, being 
often peculiarly addressed by our Lord, and often 
answering in the name of the rest ; from his being 
placed at the head of every complete enumeration of 
the apostles, and called, by Matthew, " the first ;" 
from our Lord's saying, " I have prayed for thee, 
that thy faith fail not ;" from his giving him a 
command to feed his sheep ; and from these remark- 
able words, " Thou art Peter ; and upon this rock I 
will build my church ; and I will give unto thee the 
keys of the kingdom of heaven." As to the second 
position, they argue partly from its being said by 
some ancient writers, that Peter lived for some time 
at Rome, that Peter and Paul founded the Christian 
church there, and that Peter died there ; and partly 
from the expression at the end of his first epistle. 
" The church at Babylon saluteth you." It is known 
that Babylon, in the book of the Revelation, is the 
mystical name for Rome, the only city which an- 
swers to the description there given ; and it is sup- 
posed that Peter, by using this name in his epistle, 
meant to give an intimation that Rome was the 
place of his residence. As to the third position, 
they find no support in Scripture. But they argue 
from tradition ; from the deference which they say 
was in all ages paid to the Bishop of Rome ; from 
the names given to him by ancient writers ; from 
the probability that the successors of Peter would 
be distinguished above the successors of the other 


apostles ; and from the miracles or other extraordi- 
nary gifts, by which his claim to infallibility and 
primacy has been attested. 

Such are the arguments alleged in support of the 
three essential positions of the Popish system : I 
shall now give a specimen of the answers that are 
made to them. 

As to the primacy of Peter, it is admitted that 
as in every body of men there are individuals who 
appear to take the lead of others, the fervour of 
Peter's spirit rendered him, upon all occasions, for- 
ward to speak ; and that upon account either of 
this fervour or of his age he is not only called the 
first, but seems at some times to have acted as the 
foreman or speaker of the apostolical college. But it 
is not admitted that this implies any superiority of 
office ; for, when our Lord first called the apostles, 
and when he spoke to them after his resurrection, 
and immediately before his ascension, he gave them 
the same commission, and invested them with the 
same powers. He said that they should sit on 
twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.* 
Before their minds were enlightened, they disputed 
which should be the greatest ; but, after the day of 
Pentecost, they appear to have understood that there 
was a perfect equality amongst them ; and there is 
not, in the epistles, the most distant mention of any 
prerogative enjoyed by one of the apostles. Assem- 
bled in a council at Jerusalem, Peter does not pre- 
side.f He is sent by the other apostles, along with 
John, to Samaria, t The work of the apostleship 

* Matt. xix. 2S. t Acts xv. .| Acts viii. 14. 


was afterwards distributed between Peter and Paul, 
To the former was committed the Gospel of the cir- 
cumcision, i. e. the office of preaching to the Jews : 
to the latter the Gospel of the uncircumcision, /. e. 
the office of preaching to the Gentiles.* Paul says 
that in the discharge of his office '* he was not a 
whit behind the very chiefest of the apostles ;"f and 
upon one occasion he withstood Peter to the face, 
reprehending a part of his conduct which he thought 
blameworthy. ^ The most striking circumstance in 
the history of Peter is the solemn denial of his Mas- 
ter, which does not appear to lay a good foundation 
for the infallibility of his successors, which was more 
culpable than the cowardice of the other apostles, 
and to which there is a reference in the prayer of 
our Lord for Peter, in the message sent him after 
the resurrection, " Go tell my disciples and Peter," 
and in the manner of giving him the charge, " Feed 
my sheep." The same charge is said to be commit- 
ted by the Holy Ghost to all ministers or overseers 
'ffotfjt.amiv rnv i^xh/iCiav. But bccause Peter had thrice de- 
nied his Master, he is solemnly re-instated in the 
office from which he had fallen, by our Lord's say- 
ing to him thrice, '7roi[iam^ ^cgxs m crgoCara ^w. ^ 

In examining the strength of what the Papists ac- 
count their impregnable fortress, the words address- 
ed to Peter in Matthew xvi. 16, 17, 18, you will find 
that these words were spoken upon occasion of a 
question put to all the apostles, " Whom say ye that 
I am ?" The answer is made by Peter, " Thou art 
the Christ, the Son of the living God." But it is 

* Gal. ii. 7. t 2 Cor. xi. 5. % ^^a^- ii- ^^• 

§ John xxi. 15^ 17- 


obvious that here, as at other times, he speaks in 
the name of his brethren as well as in his own name; 
and, therefore, although our Lord, in his reply, ad- 
dresses the person who had spoken, it is natural to 
understand the promise which he gives as a reward 
of the confession, extended to all in whose name the 
confession had been made. Accordingly, one part of 
the promise, " Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth 
shall be bound in heaven ; and whatsoever thou 
shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven," is 
repeated by the same Evangelist soon after. Matt. 
xviii. 18, and is there addressed to all the apostles. 
And a promise, which we understand to be the same 
in substance, " Whose soever sins ye remit, they are 
remitted unto them ; and whose soever sins ye re- 
tain, they are retained," was made to ten of the a- 
postles after the resurrection.* It is understood by 
that great body of Christians who do not hold the 
primacy of Peter, that these two passages express 
all that is meant by the phrase, " I will give thee 
the keys of the kingdom of heaven ; and, therefore, 
as no other powers but such as all the apostles en- 
joyed were at any future time communicated to Pe- 
ter, or exercised by him, we hold, that although our 
Lord says " I will give thee the keys," he is convey- 
ing, by these words, to all the apostles, the powers 
which we shall afterwards find to be implied in the 
lawful exercise of church government. There is an- 
other part, indeed, of the promise in Matt. xvi. 
which appears to be special to Peter, — " And I say 
also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this 
rock I will build my church ; and the gates of hell 

* Jchii XX. 23. 


shall not prevail against it." These words, say the 
Papists, assign to Peter a dignity and an importance 
in the establishment of the Christian church, that 
cannot be common to him and the other apostles, 
because it is connected with his name. To this ar- 
gument two answers are given. The one is, that 
this expression does not necessarily imply that the 
church was to be built upon Peter. As in the Old 
Testament there was often a close connexion in 
meaning between the name given to a person, and 
some transaction to which he had a special relation ; 
and as our Lord was accustomed in all his discourses 
to refer to surrounding objects, or to things familiar 
to his hearers, so here, when he means to speak of 
the stability of his church, he alludes to the import 
of the name, which he had given to Simon when he 
called him to be a disciple. Hell is personified, re- 
presenting the enemy and destroyer of mankind, 
who brought death into the world. The gates of 
hell are all the power and policy which this person 
can employ, because the gates of cities were strong- 
ly fortified, and they were the places where the wise 
men of the city met to deliberate. The gates of hell 
shall not prevail against my church, for it is found- 
ed upon that confession now made by thee, which, as 
the name given thee imports, is immoveable. He 
does not say, " Upon thee will I build my church." 
He does not even say, st/ tw ^sr^w. But cu zig trsr^o;, %oli 

i'lrt 7a,\jT'/} ryj crsr^a oix,odoiJ,y}(foj ryjv sxzXrjffiav mu, changing the Sub- 
stantive noun, it would seem, in order to intimate 
that he meant only an allusion to the name, and not 
the person to whom the name belonged. The con- 
fession made by Peter, " Thou art the Christ, the 
Son of the living God," is adopted by all Christians, 


and is the foundation of the Christian church. There 
would have been no Christian church, if this con- 
fession had not been made by some ; and the Christ- 
ian church will continue till the end of the world, 
because, as the proposition is true in itself, so there 
never will be wanting some, who believe and ac- 
knowledge the truth of it. All the early Christian 
writers understood rauryj rp 'Tnr^ff to mean the confes- 
sion that Jesus is the Christ ; and both the sense 
and the expression lead us to follow their interpre- 

But there is another answer to the argument 
of the Papists. If the allusion here made to the 
name of the person who uttered this confession, 
should be admitted to imply that there is a sense, 
in which the church was built upon him as well as 
upon his confession, still that sense must be so figu- 
rative and improper, as not to convey any power 
over the other apostles. For the only person who 
can be truly regarded as the foundation of the 
Christian church is the divine author of it. " Other 
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which 
is Jesus Christ." He is the rock upon wliom the 
whole building stands secure ; and, therefore, many 
understand raurp rrj TiT^cc to mean Christ. The apos- 
tles, indeed, are sometimes conjoined with him upon 
account of their labours in making the first converts. 
" Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles 
and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief 
corner stone." * The wall of the New Jerusalem, 
which John saw, " had twelve foundations, and in 
them the names of the twelve apostles of the 
Lamb." f These two passages extend to all the 

* Ephes. ii. 20. t Rev. xxi. U. 


apostles the honour given to Peter, and are to be 
interpreted in the same figurative sense. According 
to this figurative sense the promise was fulfilled. 
For as all the apostles laboured in laying the foun- 
dation of the church, so Peter had the honour of 
preaching the first sermon after the effusion of the 
Holy Ghost, by which 3000 souls were added to the 
church ; and " God also made choice among the a- 
postles that the Gentiles by his mouth," when he 
was sent to Cornelius, " should hear the word of the 
Gospel, and believe." In this sense it may be said 
that the keys of the kingdom of heaven, i. e, of the 
dispensation of the Gospel, were given to Peter ; 
for his preaching opened the door by which all that 
believe are admitted, and the zeal, with which he 
declared to others the truth which he had confessed, 
was the beginning of the gathering of that church, 
which has continued to increase, and which shall 
never perish from the earth. 

By one or other of the rational interpretations 
which I have mentioned, Protestants think they are 
able to remove the countenance, which this singular 
expression may appear to give to the high claims 
of a primacy in Peter over the other apostles ; a 
claim manifestly contradicted by the whole strain of 
the rest of the New Testament, and by the analogy 
of faith. 

On the other two positions I need not dwell. 
When you examine the evidence that Peter died 
bishop of Rome, you will find it extremely doubtful 
whether he ever was in that city. It is a question 
in the ordinary systems, An Petrus Romce fueinU 
ibique episcopaium per plures annos teniierit ; and 
the arguments for the negative are much the strong- 


est. Innumerable difficulties, in point of chronology, 
arise from supposing that Peter resided at Rome ; 
and his being bishop of that city contradicts the 
distribution made between Paul and him, by which 
Peter was the apostle of the Jews, and Paul of the 
Gentiles. Paul makes no mention of him in his 
Epistle to the Romans. Peter never speaks of hav- 
ing been at Rome ; and no reason occurs why the 
name of Babylon, in the end of his first Epistle, 
should be understood to mean any thing else than 
the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, which 
continued the metropolis of those districts, to the 
strangers scattered through which that epistle is ad- 

If Peter was not bishop of Rome, the popes are 
not his successors. But even admitting that he had 
been bishop of that city, their claim of deriving from 
him, and of continuing in all ages to enjoy, the pri- 
macy which they suppose our Lord conferred upon 
his apostle, rests upon evidence so slender, and so 
inapplicable to the subject, that it is fatiguing to 
expose the weakness of it. This third position, that 
the bishops of Rome, as the successors of Peter, pos- 
sess the primacy by which he was distinguished, in- 
volves this manifest absurdity, that the apostle John, 
" the disciple whom Jesus loved," was, for the thirty 
years during which he survived the other apostles, 
subject to the bishop of Rome, the successor of an- 
other apostle. The position assumes as its grounds, 
a supposed expediency which we saw formerly does 
not exist, a power of working miracles which are 
known to be false, a succession which has often been 
interrupted, a tradition which, far from being au- 
thentic and uniform, often contradicts the position, 


and is often manifestly forged v/hen it appears to 
speak in support of it. The infallibility and primacy 
of the Pope have been disclaimed by many bishops 
of Rome, and were for many ages disputed by the 
church : and we are under no necessity of having 
recourse to privileges derived from Peter, in order 
to account for the power which the bishops of Rome 
long exercised, because we can easily trace both the 
first introduction of that claim, and the manner in 
which it was extended and recognised. In the pre- 
eminence allowed by the councils of the church to 
the bishops of principal cities, in the ancient dignity 
of the city of Rome, and in the opportunities which 
the bishops of that city derived from the removal of 
the seat of empire to Constantinople, we find the 
circumstances which gave occasion to the claim. In 
a deep and persevering policy which accommodated 
its measures to the times, and availed itself of every 
favourable occurrence, we find a satisfying account 
of the progress and establishment of those spiritual 
and civil pretensions, which subjected a great part 
of the Christian world to a tyranny inconsistent with 
the genius of Christianity, degrading to the human 
mind, and destructive of the tranquillity and prospe- 
rity of nations. 

The Christians of former days, who struggled to 
emancipate themselves from this tyranny, were en- 
couraged in their exertions by regarding the Pope, 
meaning by that name not any individual, but the 
pretended succession of vicars of Christ, as the anti- 
christ, whose appearance and whose destruction are 
foretold in Scripture. Protestants continue to find 
in the characters of papal usurpation a literal fulfil- 
ment of various predictions concerning the corrup- 


tions of Christianity ; and their faith in the truth of 
their religion is confirmed, by tracing the correspond- 
ence between the prediction and the event. It may 
therefore be useful to subjoin to the argumentative 
view of the third form of church government, that 
scriptural and historical view of it which arises from 
attending to the train and connexion of the prophe- 
cies respecting this subject. I take as the ground- 
work of the observations about to be made, the first 
part of 2 Thess. ii. 

This second epistle was written at no great dis- 
tance of time from the first, principally with a view 
to correct an error which prevailed among the Thes- 
salonians. From a mistaken apprehension of the 
meaning of some expressions in the first letter, 
or by the artifice of some false teachers, they had 
been led to conceive that the day of judgment was at 
hand, and their minds being wholly occupied with 
the tremendous prospect, they neglected the ordinary 
business of life, and waited in consternation and dis- 
may for the coming of the Lord. The apostle hast- 
ens to undeceive and relieve their minds. He de- 
clares that no expression ever used by him bore that 
interpretation; and he brings to their recollection some 
parts of his discourse when at Thessalonica, which 
might have satisfied them that this day of the Lord 
was not at hand, because he had given notice of a 
series of important events which were first to take 
place. These events are the apostasy, the revelation 
of the man of sin, his continuing for some time to 
act in the character which he assumed, and his de- 
struction. I call it the apostasy, for the expression 
in our English Bibles, " a falling away," is by no 
means equivalent to the Greek word ^i aToaracia, the 


departing from the faith, as it is rendered 1 Tim. iv. 
1, corrupting the simplicity and purity of the Gospel. 
The article prefixed to it, " the apostasy," marks not 
only that it would be great and signal, but that it 
had been foretold that it might be known, and that 
it was to be expected by those who studied the an- 
cient prophets. In the progress of this apostasy, 
there was to be revealed or made manifest 6 av&ouTog 
trig afjM^t/Kc^ 6 v'log rrig a'TTuXs/ag, This does not necessarily 
denote a single person. But as the high priest un- 
der the Jewish law meant the persons, who in suc- 
ceeding ages bore that office, " the man of sin" may 
denote a succession of persons, who, as well as the 
apostasy, had been foretold, and so might be known ; 
and who deserved that name, either from being in- 
famous for their own wickedness, or very instrumen- 
tal in promoting the wickedness of others. The title, 
" the son of perdition," having been applied by our 
Lord to Judas, and being transferred to this man of 
sin, may suggest that, under the semblance of a friend, 
he should betray his master, and certainly intimates 
the destruction ordained for those whom he corrupt- 
ed, and for himself. This man of sin, or the suc- 
cession of persons who deserve that name, is further 
described in the 4th verse, as an enemy to the truth, 
exerting his power in opposition to that which is 
truly the cause of God, — as assuming great state and 
dignity, exalting himself above those civil powers, 
which are called in Scripture, Gods, above all that is 
held in reverence by men, — ^yet preserving the ap- 
pearance of an ecclesiastic, for " he sitteth in the 
temple of God," which, as the Jewish temple was 
soon to be destroyed, can mean nothing but the 
Christian church. Continuing, therefore, outwardly 


a member of the church, and grounding his power 
upon the station which he held there, he was to claim 
divine honours, to take to himself the name and titles 
of God, and to show himself, to those who follow 
him, as a God. There is, in all this, a striking re- 
semblance to the succession of persons who, in the 
progress of the corruptions of the church of Rome, 
encouraged sin by many of their doctrines and prac- 
tices, opposed the truth, assumed titles, and claimed 
powers which belong to no mortal. But bare resem^ 
blance is not sufficient to warrant this application of 
the prophecy. We must not only perceive that the 
description here given may apply to the succession 
of the bishops of Rome, but we must discover limit- 
ing circumstances, which prevent us from applying 
the description to any other. Some such limiting 
circumstances the apostle seems to suppose were 
known to the Thessalonians, for he refers in the 5tli 
verse, to an explication of the subject of his prophecy, 
which he had given when he was with them. But 
the reference is so short and obscure, that, whatever 
it might bring to the recollection of the Thessalo- 
nians, it conveys no information to us. The 5th and 
7th verses give no hint of what it was, that restrain- 
ed the manifestation of the man of sin. They only 
declare that the Thessalonians knew it. In order, 
then, to discover those limiting circumstances which 
are hinted at without being explained, we must re- 
collect that all the prophecies of Scripture, from the 
beginning to the end of the Bible, form one continu- 
ed scheme. The more ancient and the more recent 
predictions point to the same great dispensation of 
Providence, and they throw light upon one another. 
The prophecy in this chapter speaks of a corruption 
VOL. in. 2 D 


of Christianity, which was to attain its height in a 
future time, but was ah'cady beginning to work. 
Now the other inspired writers, who received power 
from God to speak of the same event, are Daniel the 
prophet, and John the Divine. Paul comes between 
the two ; and his words may receive illustration from 

There was imparted to Daniel, a man greatly be- 
loved of God, a vision, Dan. vii. which was, in part,, 
explained to him, and which, by means of that ex- 
plication, is clearly understood to represent four great 
empires which succeeded one another, and the course 
of whose history led to the times and the fortunes of 
the church of Christ. The empire of Babylon is re- 
presented by the lion that had eagle's wings, upon 
account of the rapidity and extent of the conquests 
of Nebuchadnezzar. The kingdom of the Medes and 
Persians is represented by the bear, a voracious ani- 
mal which thirsts after blood, because they exercised 
the greatest cruelty against the Babylonians, and 
are called by the prophet spoilers.* The empire 
which, by the rapid victories of Alexander the Great, 
was erected in a few years upon the ruins of the 
Persian, is represented by the leopard, an animal re-^ 
markable for its swiftness. The fourth beast is known 
by the description to denote the empire of the Ro- 
mans. But it has no particular name, because there 
is no animal that corresponds to the greatness, the 
strength, and the extent of the Roman empire. The 
fourth beast, as it is explained to the prophet, is a 
fourth kingdom, ** diverse from all kingdoms," be- 
ing not governed by a king, like the three former 

* Isaiah xxi. 2. 


empires ; but a republic, where the supreme* power 
was vested in a senate and assembly. It " shall de- 
vour the whole earth, and break it in pieces," be- 
cause the Romans subdued many parts of Europe 
and Africa, which were not conquered by Alexander, 
not being known to him : and although gentle, ac- 
cording to their principle, to those who submitted, 
brought the ravages of war upon those who opposed 
their power. The beast had ten horns, which are 
explained to the prophet to be " ten kings that should 
arise" out of the fourth kingdom. The barbarous 
nations, with whom the Romans had intercourse, 
being invited, by the different parties who contended 
at Rome for the government of the state, to assist 
them in their struggle, became acquainted both with 
the wealth and with the corruption of the Roman 
empire. They made incursions, obtained settlements, 
and established different kingdoms within the empire; 
and the number of independent kingdoms, which 
arose out of the empire, has been computed, by the 
most accurate examiners, to be ten. Now, as the 
prophet had seen among the ten horns of the beast 
" another little horn, before whom were three of the 
first horns plucked up," so it is explained to him, 
that, after the ten kings had arisen out of the fourth 
kingdom, /. e, after the Roman empire had been split 
into ten kingdoms, " there shall arise another king, 
diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three" of 
the ten " kings." This, by the place which it holds 
in the description, can be none other than the power 
of the Pope, which grew through a course of ages, 
so that from being a servant of the lowly Jesus, the 
successor of his humble apostles, he became a tem- 
poral prince, possessed of a large territory, and claim- 


ing to t)e the head of the whole Christian chureb. 
He was " diverse from the first," because his was a 
spiritual, as well as a civil power. The distinction 
was not always accurately marked between those 
claims which he advanced as the bishop of Rome, 
and those which he advanced as a temporal prince ; 
and the one assisted the other. Before the end of 
the eighth century, the Popes had by different means 
obtained three of the kingdoms into which the Ro- 
man empire was split, as an emblem of which they 
continue to this day to wear a triple crown. The lit- 
tle horn did then '* subdue three kings." It is said 
also, that he had " a look, more stout than his fel- 
lows, a mouth that spake very great things, and that 
he shall speak great words against the Most High." 
This he did by calling himself infallible, interpreting 
Scripture according to his pleasure, requiring instant 
obedience to his decrees in opposition to the plain 
sense of Scripture. It is said, " he shall make 
war with the saints, and prevail against them, and 
wear out the saints of the Most High." This he 
did by the court of inquisition, by the wars which he 
excited against Protestants, and by the various bloody 
methods which he employed to oppress those who 
resisted his usurpation. It is said " he shall think 
to change times and laws." This he did by indul- 
gences, by traditions, by new modes of worship, new 
articles of faith, and new practices, as penances, fasts, 
and pilgrimages. The prophecy concludes with fore- 
telling the destruction of this strange power, and the 
triumph of the saints of the Most High over their 
oppressor ; and it even sets a season for that event. 
In this passage of Daniel, then, and there are others 
in his book of the same import, it is plainly foretold. 


that there was to arise a power of a very singular 
character in opposition to true religion ; that this 
power was to arise in that part of the world which 
was properly called the Roman empire, and that it 
was to arise after the empire was divided into ten 

The other inspired person, who speaks of this pow- 
er, is John the Divine. In his epistles the expres- 
sions are general. 1 John ii. 18, " Ye have heard 
that antichrist shall come ;" antichrist, L e, a person, 
or a succession of persons, in opposition to Christ, to 
his dignity, to his doctrine, and to the spirit of his 
religion. '' Ye have heard it." It is one of the 
traditions of the Christian church, proceeding from 
the first preachers of Christianity, and diffused with 
the knowledge of the Gospel through the whole world. 
1 John iv. 3, " This is that spirit of antichrist 
whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even 
now already it is in the world." The spirit of this 
opposition is already working, although the time of 
its full manifestation is what you have been taught 
to look for as yet future. 

Both these passages are general, and only furnish 
a name for that corrupt usurping power, which Daniel 
had described. But John is most particular in his 
book of prophecy. When he was in the spirit in the 
isle of Patmos, he " saw the things which shall be 
hereafter ;" and amongst other things there were 
shown to him. Rev. xvii. the future corruptions of 
religion, by the vision of a woman sitting upon a 
portentous beast, " having seven heads and ten 
horns." Here, as in Daniel, the vision is explained. 
For when John " wondered with great admiration'' 
at what he saw, the angel told him " the mystery,'' 


i, e, the hidden import " of the woman and of the 
beast. The seven heads are seven mountains on 
which the woman sitteth. The woman is that great 
city which reigneth over the kings of the earth. 
And the ten horns are ten kings v/hich have receiv- 
ed no kingdom as yet ; but receive power as kings 
one hour with the beast. For God hath put it in 
their heart to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give 
their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God 
shall be fulfilled.*' Here we are brought back to the 
prophecy of Daniel ; for the city of seven hills which 
reigned over the kings of the earth, is the character- 
istical description of Rome. She was the mistress of 
the world ; and the peculiarity of her situation, which 
her own poets, and all travellers mark, is, that with- 
in one wall she enclosed seven hills or eminences. 

Septemque una sibi muro circumdahit arces. The 
universal empire which she attained under the first 
of her emperors was, in succeeding ages, split into 
ten kingdoms, so that she is fitly marked by the 
beast with seven heads and ten horns. In the cha- 
racter which John draws of the woman, we recognise 
the features of that king, diverse from all other kings, 
who was represented in Daniel by the little horn. 
She has a cup in her hand, with which she teaches 
the nations to commit idolatry. She is " drunk with 
the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the 
martyrs of Jesus." She receives power from the ten 
kings, and she rides them, i. e, directs them at her 
pleasure. Here is an antichristian power, and the 
time and the place of it are marked. It is to exist 
along with the ten kings, receiving its kingdom from 
them ; and, at length, when they are tired of its 
usurpation, to be destroyed by them. It is the city 


of Rome, described in words, which to any person 
acquainted with history, can mark no other city in 
the world, the capital of that empire, out of the di- 
vision of which the strange power was to arise. 
The later prophecy then, according to the practice 
in the chain of prophecy upon ail other subjects, has 
rendered the ancient more intelligible, and more 
pointed ; and when we compare Daniel and John 
together, we can entertain no doubt that the seat of 
the antichristian power, which both agree in describ- 
ing, was to be the city of Rome, after the division 
of the Roman empire. 

So far Daniel and John. Now here comes in the 
Apostle Paul between the two, manifestly describing 
the same antichristian power of which they speak ; 
a power which " opposeth, and exalteth itself above 
all that is called God, and showeth itself that it is 
God." His description is, in some respects, not so 
intelligible as theirs. We should not be able to learn 
from him either the time or the place of the appear^ 
ance of this power. But we find him referring, for the 
explication of the short expressions which are here 
used, to what he had said when he was at Thessalo- 
nica, and to the knowledge of the subject which was 
generally diffused through the Christian church. 
" Remember ye not that I have told you these things. 
Ye know what withholdeth." We are warranted 
then, we are obliged by the authority of the apostle 
himself, to take in this general knowledge as the 
commentary upon his words, i. e. we are obliged to 
make the prophecy of Daniel, and the information 
of which John says Christians were in possession, 
and which his prophecy extended, to make them the 
interpreters of Paul ; and when we do so, the mean^ 
jng of this apostle appears plain, 


Paul wrote to the Thessalonians when the Ro- 
man empire existed in all its glory, during the reign 
of some of the first emperors, and before any disas- 
ter had befallen the state, or any inroad had been 
made by the barbarians. But this flourishing con- 
dition of the empire withheld the man of sin from 
being revealed. He could not be revealed, while the 
empire was one and undivided ; for the prophecy of 
Daniel had expressly marked, that antichrist was to 
arise after the dismemberment of the empire ; and 
the prophecy of John says, that he was to exist with 
the ten kings. It was many ages after the date of 
this epistle, that independent kingdoms were esta- 
blished in the empire ; and it was not till the fifth 
century that Rome was taken, and the Roman em- 
pire destroyed by the barbarians. Then " he who 
letteth," 6 y.a7iyj:yj, " was taken out of the way." The 
power and dignity of the emperor being abolished, 
the bishop of Rome became the most conspicuous 
person in the western world. Availing himself of 
all the advantages which the weakness, the divisions, 
and the continual wars of the barbarous princes af- 
forded him, he silently reared his head, extended his 
claims, enlarged his dominions ; and before the end 
of the eighth century, was in possession of the ter- 
ritory of three of the ten kings, was acknowledged 
as a sovereign prince, and was submitted to as the 
vicar of Christ. 

This interpretation of the obscure expression of 
Paul, which we derive easily from the words of the 
two other prophets, contains a satisfying reason why 
he wrote thus darkly. There would have been a 
great impropriety in a dutiful subject of the empire, 
as the apostle always professed to be, speaking open- 


\y in a letter which was to be circulated through the 
Christian world, of the dissolution of the empire, 
and of events respecting the Christians, which were 
to happen after that dissolution. Such a letter would 
justly have been accounted treason against the state, 
and might have exposed both the writer of it, and 
those who held it in veneration, to civil punishment. 
The apostle, therefore, darkly refers to what he had 
said at Thessalonica, and by this cautious mode of 
expressing himself avoids an unnecessary danger. 
But although he does not here explain what he had 
said, the knowledge of it was carried from Thessalo- 
nica, or from other churches where he had given the 
same instruction, through all the Christian world, 
and as the intimation agreed exactly with the pre- 
diction of Daniel, it came to be generally understood 
by the Christians, that as soon as the Roman emr 
pire was dismembered antichrist should appear. 
" Therefore," says Tertullian in his apology, written 
in the second century, " we Christians are under a 
particular necessity of praying for the emperors, and 
for the continued state of the empire, because we 
know the dreadful power which hangs over the 
whole world ; and the conclusion of the age, which 
threatens the most horrible evils, is retarded by the 
continuance of the time appointed for the Roman 
empire. We pray, therefore, that this evil may be 
deferred by the perpetuity of the state." Jerome, 
who lived to see Rome taken by the Goths, exclaims, 
*' He which letted is now taken away, and from 
hence we understand that antichrist is near." 

Although the revelation of the man of sin was in 
this manner delayed, or letted, for ages after the 
apostle wrote, yet the seeds of this corruption were 


sown in the Christian church even during his days ; 

for he says, to iJ^-jarmov rihri zvi^yurat ryjg avo(j.iag. Mystery is 

the Scripture name for any thing that is secret, whose 
nature is not perfectly discovered. The Gospel is 
called " the mystery of godliness," because its divine 
iand spiritual nature was unknown to the world at 
the time of its publication ; and the corruptions of the 
Gospel are called " the mystery of iniquity," be- 
cause they long worked secretly, before their influence 
in encouraging iniquity was manifest. We find many 
traces of them in the apostolical writings; contentions 
for pre-eminence ; the abuse of Christian liberty so as 
to make it a pretext for vindicating rebellion and a 
contempt of the higher powers ; false philosophy 
perverting the simplicity of the truth ; the distinc- 
tion of meats ; the w^orship of angels ; the observ- 
ance of days and months, and other superstitious ce- 
remonies ; voluntary humility ; affected mortifica- 
tions ; abstinence from things, " which God hath 
created to be received with thanksgiving ;" a respect 
for the traditions and doctrines of men ; and an en- 
deavour to substitute outward compliance with the 
commandments, in place of that " righteousness, 
peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which is the king- 
dom of Christ." All this is popery. Under what- 
ever name, or in whatever form it appears, it is the 
spirit of the " man of sin." The apostles testify 
against it in their epistles ; and by the very 
strong censures with which they brand the first 
fruits of this spirit, they teach Christians to hold 
it in abhorrence wheresoever it makes itself mani- 
fest. So long as the Roman emperors were hea- 
then, and the Christians were exposed to persecution 
luider their government, this spirit was repressed,, 
and could not do much mischief But after the con- 


version of Constantine lent the aid of the civil ma- 
gistrate to the decrees of the church, this spirit be- 
came conspicuous in the articles of faith, which were 
established by authority, and enforced upon the Chris- 
tian world. The worship of saints and angels, many 
superstitious customs, and much foolish abstinence, 
became the law of the church ; and this law was es- 
teemed as of equal authority with the word of God. 
Still, however, the dignity and power of the Roman 
emperor restrained the complete manifestation of the 
""man of sin." But when a barbarous race invaded 
the seat of the Romxan empire, levelled all that was 
held venerable in the state, and spread ignorance and 
anarchy over those lands which had been blessed 
with science and equal government, then was the op- 
portunity of the " man of sin," roj kocuro-o y.a/^oj, his oc- 
casion, his favourable time ; when meeting with no 
obstacle, and finding in the weakness, the divisions, 
and the brutality of the barbarous princes, a subject 
upon which his arts might be practised with success, 
** he, as God, seated himself in the temple of God, 
showing himself" to his deluded followers, " that he 
is God." The power which had been occasionally exer- 
cised by the general councils, under the protection of 
the emperors, and with a prudent regard to circum- 
stances, was then boldly asserted as the right of the 
Bishop of Rome. By his own infallibility he de- 
clared what should be the faith of Christians ; he 
enacted the discipline and ceremonies of the church ; 
and he separated from Christ, and persecuted with 
the sword, those who refused to submit to his de- 
crees. With strict propriety the apostle calls him, 
in the 8th verse, 6 aw/zogy the lawless one ; since it is 
said of him by those, who, in their public writings. 


profess to give a true picture of the extent of his au- 
thority, that he is subject to no law, that by the ple- 
nitude of his power, he can make right wrong, and 
wrong right, and that he may do all things above 
law, without law, and against law. A time of anar- 
chy was the season, zai^og, for the revelation of such 
a man ; and the progress of just notions with regard 
to the rights of sovereigns and the liberties of man- 
kind must, in the nature of things, circumscribe such 
extravagant claims. 

But before we speak of his destruction, let us at- 
tend to the intimation given in this prophecy of the 
arts, by which this " mystery of iniquity" was to be 
established. The apostle mentions two; false mira- 
cles, or " all power, and signs, and lying wonders ;'' 
and what he calls " all deceivableness of unright- 
eousness." One of the marks, by which the church 
of Rome says it may be known that she is the true 
church, is the power of working miracles. Accord- 
ingly, the legends of the church are filled with won- 
derful cures performed at the shrines of the saints, 
or by their bones and relics ; and with stories more 
marvellous and more ridiculous, than any of those 
which we now read for amusement. In a supersti- 
tious and ignorant age, when it was the interest of 
the priests to deceive the people, and when it was 
the wish of the people to be deceived, exploits which 
appear to us palpable and gross forgeries were re- 
ceived without examination as real and great mira- 
cles. Indeed, in most of the instances, the forgery 
was so gross, that it has been acknowledged by se- 
veral writers in the Romish church ; and it does not 
seem necessary to suppose that the power of any 
evil spirit was exerted. But these lying wonders. 


are here said to have been wrought xa/ in^yvav rou lar- 
ava, because Satan is the Father of lies ; and their 
influence upon the minds of men in preparing them 
to receive and to retain the corruptions of the truth, 
was an instrument in which he delighted, by which 
he had held a part of the dominion which he exer- 
cised over the heathen world, and by which, after 
the appearance of Christianity, he kept many of the 
followers of Christ in nearly the same darkness, ido- 
latry, and slavery, v/hich formed the character of 
those to whom the true God had never been preach* 
ed. The other instrument of establishing the 
usurped authority of the " man of sin" is styled 
icmr^ a'^rarrj rrig abmac ; an expression which comprehends 
all the false doctrines, and delusive promises, and 
groundless fears, by which the church of Home rules 
over the minds of its votaries; the forgeries of books ; 
the perversion of Scripture ; the arts of captious reason- 
ing ; the expectation of purgatory, that invisible fire 
which may be rendered longer or shorter, more in* 
tense or more gentle, according to the pleasure of the 
Pope ; that reliance upon the intercession of the 
saints, and upon the powers of indulgence and abso- 
lution said to be vested in the church of Rome, by 
which men are accommodated in the practice of in- 
iquity, and relieved from the reproaches of con- 

The effectual preservative against the influence of 
both these instruments is the " love of the truth." An 
acquaintance with the nature and evidence of the 
miracles of the Gospel exposes the falsehood of the 
lying wonders of the church of Rome ; and " the 
truth as it is in Jesus," detained in faith and love, 
guards us against " all the deceivableness of un- 


righteousness." But, if men will not exercise their 
own understandings, they may be led into danger- 
ous errors, and may, finally, fall into that condem- 
nation from which the holding the truth would have 
delivered them. The apostle, however, is not to be 
understood as meaning, by the strong expressions 
which he has subjoined to this prophecy, that all 
who ever believed the errors of popery are certainly 
damned. So uncharitable a sentiment forms no part 
of the Protestant faith. We believe that many wor- 
thy, pious men, by the prejudices of education and 
custom, have been so confirmed in doctrines, which 
we know to be erroneous, that they were unable to 
extricate themselves. Yet they might be preserved 
by the grace of God from that unrighteousness, to 
which the same errors led many others ; and there 
might be in their breasts a " love of the truth," al- 
though the thickness of the surrounding cloud kept 
them in darkness. The condemnation is pronounced 
against those, who " received not the love of the 
truth that they might be saved," who greedily em- 
braced error, who cherished it because it encourag- 
ed them in sin, and were led, by means of it, to a 
security and an excess of transgression. Whether 
such were the teachers or the hearers of this corrupt 
form of Christianity, their condemnation is just ; 
for although the guilt of those who lead others into 
sin is most heinous, yet no man is entitled to plead 
his being misled, as an excuse for the perversion of 
his understanding, or the corruption of his life. 
" For every man shall bear his own burden." 

" The love of the truth" is the preservative against 
the usurped dominion of the " man of sin," and the 
diffusion of the knowledge of the truth will prove 


the destruction of that dominion. For as the pro- 
phecies of the great apostasy, in Daniel and John^ 
speak clearly of better times, when truth and right- 
eousness shall flourish upon earth ; so the apostle 
says, " Then shall that wicked be revealed, whom 
the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, 
and shall destroy with the brightness of his com- 
ing." " The spirit or breath of his mouth" is a com- 
mon Scripture expression for the word of God. The 
church of Rome forbade the people to read the Scrip- 
tures ; and it was the ignorance produced hy this 
prohibition that kept the world in bondage. But 
when our forefathers presumed, at the time of the 
Reformation, to open the Bible ; when it was trans- 
lated into the languages of all countries, and was 
everywhere read and explained, it shook the pillars 
of the dominion of " the man of sin." Many parts 
of the Christian world were soon emancipated from 
subjection to him. The temporal power which he 
had assumed over Christian princes and states was 
almost everywhere resisted ; and even in those 
countries which still acknowledge him as the head of 
the Christian church, his spiritual pretensions are 
abated, and he is no longer the object of servile dread* 
And we are thus prepared for believing what the 
apostle declares, that the Lord, by the brightness of 
his coming, by some striking interposition of Provi- 
dence, or by the instrumentality of men, shall refine 
his church from this corruption, and leave no por- 
tion of the dross. The times are in his hand. We 
presume not to say, when it shall be, or what are the 
steps by which it is to be accomplished. But we 
wait with faith and hope for that clear explication 
of the obscurest words of the prophecy, which the 


event will give to some age of the Christian church ; 
and we regard the diminution of both the temporal 
and the spiritual authority of the Pope, the progress 
of the Reformation, and the emancipation of many- 
states which he once held in subjection, as pledges 
that all the parts of the prophecy will, in their sea-- 
son, be accomplished. 

Barrow. Mede. Warburton. Newton. Hurd. Halifax* 
Bagot. Macknight^on the Epistles.^ 



The jurisdiction and supremacy of the Pope never 
was acknowledged by what is called the Eastern 
or Greek church, i. e. by large bodies of Christians 
inhabiting the eastern part of Europe, and a great 
part of Asia, or by those Christians that are found 
in some districts of Africa ; and the era of the Re- 
formation separated a considerable part of what had 
been called the Latin or Western church from the 
communion of the bishop of Rome. But the Pro- 
testants, although they united in combating that de- 
scription of church government, which is given 
either by the Papists or by the Roman Catholics, 
did not agree as to what was to be substituted in its 
place. Minuter shades of difference in the external 
polity and visible form of Protestant churches may 


be overlooked. But there are two general systems 
of church government that obtain amongst Protest- 
ants, which are, in many respects, opposed to one 
another. We are accustomed to express the points 
of difference in one word, by calling some Protest^ 
ant churches Episcopal, and others Presbyterian ; 
and these two systems form an interesting object in 
Great Britain, because the one is established by laW 
in England, the other in Scotland. 

The Episcopal form of church government pro-^ 
fesses to find in the days of the apostles the model 
upon which it is framed. While our Lord remain- 
ed upon earth, he acted as the immediate governor 
of his church. Having himself called the apostles, 
he kept them constantly about his person, except at 
one time, when he sent them forth upon a short 
progress through the cities of Judea, and gave them 
particular directions how they should conduct them- 
selves. The seventy disciples, whom he sent forth 
at another time, are never mentioned again in the 
New Testament. But the apostles received from 
him many intimations that their office was to con- 
tinue after his departure ; and as one great object of 
his ministry was to qualify them for the execution 
of this office, so in the interval between his resurrec- 
tion and his ascension, he explained to them the du- 
ties of it, and he invested them with the authority" 
which the discharge of those duties implied. " Go,'*" 
said he, " make disciple& of all nations, baptizing 
them, teaching them ; and lo, I am with you alway, 
even unto the end of the world. As my father hath 
sent me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy 
Ghost." * 

* Matt, xxviii. 19, 20. John xx. 21, 22. 

VOL. Ill, 2 E 


Soon after the ascension of Jesus, his apostles re- 
ceived those extraordinary gifts of which his pro- 
mise had given them assurance ; and immediately 
they began to execute their commission, not only as 
the witnesses of his resurrection, and the teachers of 
his religion, but as the rulers of that society which 
was gathered by their preaching. In Acts vi. we 
find the apostles ordering the Christians at Jerusa- 
lem to " look out seven men of honest report," v/ho 
might take charge of the daily ministrations to the 
poor, and to bring the men so chosen to them, that 
" we," said the apostles, " may appoint them over 
this business." The men accordingly were " set be- 
fore the apostles ; and when they had prayed, they 
laid their hands on them." Here are the apostles 
ordaining deacons. Afterwards we find Paul, in liis 
progress through Asia Minor, ordaining in every 
church elders, ^^zcZ\jTiQ(j'o(; ; the name properly expres- 
sive of age being transferred, after the practice of 
the Jews, as a mark of respect to ecclesiastical rul- 
ers.* The men thus ordained by Paul appear from 
the book of Acts and the Epistles to have been 
teachers, pastors, overseers of the flock of Christ ; 
and to Timothy, who was a minister of the word, 
Paul speaks of " the gift which is in thee by the 
putting on of my hands." f Over the persons to 
whom he thus conveyed the office of teaching he ex- 
ercised jurisdiction ; for he sent to Ephesus, to the 
elders of the church to meet him at Miletus, and 
there in a long discpurse gave them a solemn charge ;i: 
and to Timothy and Titus he wrote epistles in the 
style of a superior. 

* Acts xiv. 23. t 2 Tim. i. 6. % Acts xx. 17—35. 


As Paul unquestionably conceived that there be- 
longed to him as an apostle an authority over other 
office-bearers of the church, so his Epistles contain 
two examples of a delegation of that authority. He 
not only directs Timothy, whom he had besought to 
abide at Ephesus, how to behave himself in the house 
of God as a minister, but he sets him over other 
ministers. He empowers him to ordain men to 
the work of the ministry. 2 Tim. ii. 2. " The 
things that thou hast heard of me among many wit- 
nesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who 
shall be able to teach others also." He gives him di- 
rections about the ordination of bishops and deacons : 
he places both these kinds of office-bearers in Ephe- 
sus under his inspection, instructing him in what 
manner to receive an accusation against an elder 
who laboured in word and doctrine ; and he com- 
mands him to charge some that they teach no other 
doctrine, but the form of sound words. In like 
manner, he says to Titus, i. 5, " For this cause left 
I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the 
things that were wanting, and ordain elders in every 
city, as I had appointed thee." He describes to 
Titus the qualifications of a bishop or elder, making 
him the judge how far any person in Crete was pos- 
sessed of these qualifications : he gives him authority 
over all orders of Christians there, and he empowers 
him to reject heretics. 

Here, then, is that apostle, with whose actions we 
are best acquainted, seemingly aware that there would 
be continual occasion in the Christian church for the 
exercise of that authority over pastors and teachers, 
which the apostles had derived from the Lord Jesus ; 
and by these two examples of a delegation «'iven 


during his lifetime, preparing the world for behold- 
ing that authority exercised by the successors af the 
apostles in all ages. 

Accordingly the earliest Christian writers tell us 
that the apostles, to prevent contention, appointed 
bishops and deacons ; giving orders too, that upon 
their death, other approved men should succeed in 
their ministry. We are told that the other apostles 
constituted their first-fruits, /. e. their first disciples, 
after they had proved them by the Spirit, bishops 
and deacons of those who were to believe ; and that 
the apostle John, who survived the rest, after return- 
ing from Patmos, the place of his banishment, went 
about the neighbouring nations, ordaining bishops, 
establishing whole churches, and setting apart par- 
ticular persons for the ministry, as they were point- 
ed out to him by the Spirit. As bishops are men- 
tioned in the earliest times, so ecclesiastical history 
records the succession of bishops through many ages ; 
and even during the first three centuries, before 
Christianity was incorporated with the state, every 
city, where the multitude of Christians required a 
number of pastors to perform the stated offices, pre- 
sents to us, as far as we can gather from contem- 
porary writers, an appearance very much the same 
with that of the church of Jerusalem in the days of 
the apostles. The apostle James seems to have re- 
sided in that city. But there is also mention of the 
elders of the church, who, according to the Scripture 
representation of elders, must have discharged the 
ministerial office, but over whom the apostle James 
presided. So in Carthage, where Cyprian was bishop, 
and in every other Christian city of which we have 
particular accounts, there was a college of presbyters ; 


and there was one person who had not only prece- 
dency, but jurisdiction and authority over the rest. 
They were his council in matters relating to the 
church, and they were qualified to preach, to baptize, 
and to administer the Lord's supper; but they could 
do nothing without his permission and authority. 
It is a principle in Christian antiquity, hg imam'Trog, t^ia. 
sTczXriatoc, The one bishop had the care of all the Christ- 
ians, who, although they met in separate congrega- 
tions, constituted one church ; and he had the inspec- 
tion of the pastors, who, having received ordination 
from the bishop, officiated in the separate congrega- 
tions, performed the several parts of duty which he 
prescribed to them, and were accountable to him for 
their conduct. 

In continuation of this primitive institution we 
find episcopacy in all corners of the church of Christ. 
Until the time of the Reformation there were in every 
Christian state persons with the name, the rank, and 
the authority of bishops ; and the existence of such 
persons was not considered as an innovation, but as 
an establishment, which, by means of catalogues pre- 
served in ecclesiastical writers, may be traced back 
to the days of the apostles. 

Upon the principles which have now been stated 
it is understood, according to the Episcopal form of 
government, that there is in the church a superior 
order of office-bearers, the successors of the apostles, 
who possess in their own persons the right of ordi- 
nation and jurisdiction, and who are called smgjco-Troi, as 
being the overseers not only of the people, but also 
of the clergy ; and an inferior order of ministers, 
called presbyters, the literal translation of the word 
'TgeffSyngw, which is rendered in our English Bibles 


elders, persons who receive, from the ordination of 
the bishop, power to preach and to administer the 
sacraments, who are set over the people, but are 
themselves under the government of the bishop, and 
have no right to convey to others the sacred office, 
which he gives them authority to exercise under him. 
According to a phrase used by Charles I, who was 
by no means an unlearned defender of that form of 
government to which he was a martyr, the presbyters 
are episcopi gregis ; but the bishops are episcopi gre- 
gis et pastor um. 

In what manner bishops of a province or nation 
are associated amongst themselves, and what degree 
of subordination subsists between them and their 
metropolitans or archbishops, is generally understood 
to be a matter of civil regulation, depending upon 
mutual agreement, or upon national establishment. 
But the authority of a bishop within his own diocese, 
the word employed to denote the extent of territory 
committed to his care, his jurisdiction over all the 
Christians that live in it, and his superintendence of 
the clergy that officiate there, is conceived to be a 
right conveyed to him by succession from the apostles, 
in the exercise of which he may be supported by the 
civil magistrate, but which is itself founded upon the 
word of God, and is agreeable to the ancient and un- 
interrupted practice of the Christian church. 

The Presbyterian form of church government pro- 
fesses, like the Episcopal, to find, in the times of the 
apostles, the model upon which it is framed. 

In order to perceive how two opposite forms can 
claim to be derived from the same origin, the point 
at which they separate must be carefully marked. 
Both Epifccopaiians and Presbyterians agree, that 


amongst the various powers committed to the apos- 
tles there was an authority vested in them, as the 
governors of the church, to exercise the most ample 
inspection and jurisdiction over those whom they 
ordained, as well as over the Christian people : and 
both agree that there are instances in Scripture of a 
delegation of some part at least of this governing 
power. But they differ as to the description of the 
persons to whom the delegation was made. Timo- 
thy and Titus, who, by the directions contained in 
the Epistles addressed to them, were unquestionably 
constituted Episcopi et pastor urn et gregis, are ac- 
counted by the Episcopalians, the stated bishops of 
Ephesus and Crete, office-bearers of the same order 
with the succession of bishops in other ages. 

According to the Presbyterians, Timothy and 
Titus were extraordinary office-bearers suited to the 
infant state of the Christian church, who are called 
in the New Testament evangelists, and whose office 
is thus described in the fourth century by Eusebius. 
" They, laying only the foundation of the faith in 
places which had not heard the Gospel, and appoint- 
ing other pastors to whom they delivered the cultiva- 
tion of these new plants, passed on themselves to other 
countries and nations." 

The proof that Timothy and Titus were of the 
order of evangelists is of this kind. Timothy is 
mentioned in the Acts and the Epistles as an attend- 
ant of Paul in his different journeys. Paul saysy 
1 Tim. i. 3, that he had besought him to abide still 
at Ephesus, which implies that this was not his fixed 
station, where a sense of duty called him to reside, 
but a place, where the prospect of his doing some 
special service rendered a temporary stay expedient. 


In ^ Tim. iv. 5, Timothy is called an evangelist, 
e^yov 'ffoindov ivayyzTjcTox). Paul appoints him, 2 Tim. iv. 9, 
21, to come to him at Rome, from whence the second 
Epistle was written, and to come before winter; which 
implies that he was not soon to return to Ephesus. 
From these circumstances it appears probable, that, 
although in the postscript of the second Epistle, 
which, being no part of the canon of Scripture, 
is of no authority, Timothy is styled the first Bi- 
shop of the church of the Ephesians, and although 
those who have made catalogues of bishops, begin 
the succession at Ephesus with this respectable name, 
jet Timothy was not a stated office-bearer in that 
church ; but a person whom Paul, from intimate ac- 
quaintance with his zeal and his talents, sent to Ephe- 
sus, where he himself had resided two years, and 
had ordained elders. This is rendered the more 
probable by our being able to explain the circum- 
stances, which made it proper to send such a person 
as Timothy with an extraordinary character to Ephe- 
sus. In the solemn charge which Paul addressed to 
the elders of that church, when he summoned them 
to meet him at Miletus, there are these words, Acts 
XX. 29, 30 ; " For I know this, that after my de- 
parting shall grievous wolves enter in among you, 
not sparing the flock. Also of your ownselves shall 
men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away 
disciples after them. Therefore watch." As this 
warning suggests that there might be much expedi- 
ency in sending an extraordinary teacher to Ephe- 
sus, so we are told by some ancient Christian writ- 
ers, that Timothy was left at Ephesus in order to 
oppose Judaizing teachers ; and many parts of the 
Epistles show, that the arts of the false teachers at 


Ephesus had seduced some, and that the nature of 
their teaching implied such a display of learning, 
and such a perversion of Christian doctrine, as re- 
quired an able and skilful antagonist. 

Titus is styled, in the postscript of the epistle ad- 
dressed to him. Bishop of the church of the Cretians. 
But the postscripts of the epistles are known to be 
of no authority, being the additions of a later age ; 
and it appears from two circumstances, that Titus 
was an evangelist, and not, as the postscript bears. 
Bishop of the church of the Cretians, or a stated 
office-bearer in that church. 1. From the account 
given of his being left there. Titus i. 5. " For this 
cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in 
order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders 
in every city ;" which, according to the description 
that we find in Eusebius, is the very work of an 
evangelist. 2. From a direction given him, Titus 
iii. 12. " When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or 
Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis : 
for I have determined there to winter." Nicopolis 
was a town in Macedonia, or in Epirus. Which- 
ever of the tw^o we understand it to be, Titus had to 
sail from Crete the whole length of the 31are 
Aegeum^ in those days a very difficult navigation, 
before he could reach the apostle. The direction, 
therefore, seems to imply that the work assigned him 
in the first chapter was temporary. When it was 
finished, he was to rejoin the apostle, that he might 
be sent elsewhere ; and, accordingly, in the second 
epistle to Timothy, which is generally understood to 
be one of the last of Paul's epistles, and was cer- 
tainly written after Titus had left Crete, it is said 
'• Titus is departed unto Dalmatia." 


If these are arguments sufficient to prove that Ti- 
mothy and Titus were extraordinary office-bearers, 
suited to the infant state of the Christian church, 
then these two instances, of a delegation of the apos- 
tolical powers of inspection and government, are no 
proof that such delegation to single persons ought to 
be continued, or that the apostles intended it should 
remain in the Christian church. But, if the support 
which the episcopal form of government derives from 
the powers committed to Timothy and Titus be 
withdrawn, the Presbyterians contend, that the Scrip- 
tures furnish no unec|uivocal instance of inspection 
over pastors being exercised by any office-bearer in- 
ferior to an apostle ; and they think they are able 
to prove, that the distinction between bishops and 
presbyters has no foundation in Scripture. Even 
after they prove this point, they have still to combat 
the arguments, which the Episcopalians derive from 
the universal establishment of Episcopacy, and from 
the succession of bishops since the days of the 
apostles. These, however, are matters of secondary 
consideration. The first thing incumbent upon 
those, who contend that Episcopal government does 
not come to us recommended by aj)ostolical authori- 
ty, is to show, that presbyters are in the New Tes- 
tament put upon a level with bishops, and are there 
invested with those powers of ordination and juris- 
diction, which, according to the Episcopal form of go- 
vernment, belong exclusively to the higher order of 
office-bearers. The amount of the reasoning of the 
Presbyterians upon this fundamental point may be 
thus stated. 

They begin their argument with distinguishing 
carefully betv/een those extraordinary powers, which 


exalt the apostles of Jesus above all other office- 
bearers in his church, and those ordinary functions 
implied in their office as teachers, which are in all 
ages necessary for the edification of the body of 
Christ. The universal commission, which they re- 
ceived from their Master, to make disciples of all na- 
tions, could not be permanent as to the extent of it, 
because it was their practice to ordain elders in 
every city, and because the course of human affiiirs 
required that, after Christianity was established, 
the teachers of it should officiate in a particular 
place. The infallible guidance of the Spirit, under 
which the apostles acted in the execution of their 
universal commission, v/as not promised, in the same 
measure, to succeeding teachers. But being, in their 
case, vouched by the power of working miracles, it 
directed the Christians of their days to submit im- 
plicitly to their injunctions and directions ; it placed 
their words upon a footing with the words of their 
Master ; and it warrants the Christian v/orld, in all 
ages, to receive with entire confidence that system 
of faith and morality, which they were authorised 
to deliver in his name. But, as all Protestants hold 
that this system was completed when the canon of 
Scripture was closed, and that neither individuals, 
nor any body of men, have authority to add any 
new articles of faith, it is admitted by them that a 
great part of the apostolical powers ceased with those 
to whom Jesus first committed them : and, there- 
fore, the Presbyterians cannot appear to contradict 
the analogy of faith, when they rank amongst the 
extraordinary powers, which were to cease after the 
days of the apostles, that supreme right of inspec- 
tion and government over Christian pastors, which 


was implied in their universal commission, and in 
their hands was not liable to abuse. Amongst the 
ordinary functions belonging to their office as teach- 
ers, which were to remain always in the Christian 
church, are to be ranked, not only preaching the 
word and dispensing the sacraments, but also that 
rule and government over Christians as such, which 
is implied in the idea of the church as a society ; 
and the Presbyterians contend, that the right of ex- 
ercising all these ordinary functions was conveyed 
by the apostles to ^^sff^urs^o/, whom they ordained. In 
order to prove that none of those ordinary functions 
were reserved, as the distinguishing privilege of a 
higher class of office-bearers, but that the Presby- 
ters derived, from the ordination of the apostles, a 
right to govern the church as well as to preach and 
to dispense the sacraments, the Presbyterians are 
accustomed to dwell upon this incontrovertible pro- 
position, that the two names imTTtoiroi and 'r^2(7Cur£go/ are 
used by the apostles promiscuously ; from whence 
this inference seems clearly to follow, that a distinc- 
tion between g^trxo^o/ and '^r^sa^vrs^oif as if they denoted 
different classes of office-bearers, is a distinction un- 
known to the New Testament. When the apostle 
Paul sent for the elders of Ephesus to meet him at 
Miletus, although they are called roug 'j^iaQurs^ovg rrjg 
ixxXrjffiag, he thus addresses them. Acts xx. 28, '^r^offix^rs 

wv lauToig, %a,i iravri rw '7roi(i>vitjj, iv u> vfiag ro 'n-vsvfMa to kym shro 
smffKOTTovg, <7rMiMCcmtv ry\v iX'/Xi^diav to-j Gsov. Here the <7r^sa-QvTS^M 

are called siriaxomi, and are addressed as having the 
government of the church. Paul says to Titus, " I 

left thee in Crete ha xara^Tridyig TiOLTo, iroXiv T^£(rQuTi^ovg" He 

mentions some qualifications which ought to be re- 
quired in them ; and he adds as a I'eason for requir- 


ing such qualifications, hn ya^ tov zmcxo'Trov ccviyxXviTov sivai ; 

intimating that the two names were convertible. 
The epistle to the Philippians is addressed 'zua-t roi^ 

ayioig zv X^itftu) lyjoov, roig ovff/v ev ^iX/'TT'Troig, (fuv s'Tiffxo-Troig xa/ diajiovo/c, ' 

the natural interpretation of which is, that these 
^TigTioroi resided at Philippi in connexion with the 
Christians of that church ; and that as there is no 
mention of 'TriicZu^s^t in the address, the same persons 
whom the writers of the New Testament, in speak- 
ing of other churches, call ^^sffCvre^oi, are here termed 
i'TTiffKO'Troi. Lastly, as 'x^isQurt^oi are thus called s'7r/(j>ioTofy 
so the apostles, the highest office-bearers in the 
church, did not think it beneath them to take the 
name '?r§ssCvrs^oi, John begins his second and third 
epistles with the words 6 Tr^sffQursPog, — and Peter thus 
writes to the Christians whom he addresses, 1 Pet- 
V. 1 ; " The elders which are among you, I exhort, 
who am also an elder. Feed the flock of God which 
is among you, taking the oversight thereof. And 
when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive 
a crown of glory." Here are powers of government 
committed to T^sffCurs^o/. The apostle, by calling him- 
self ffvfi'7r^s<!Qvrs^og, secms to intimate that they possessed 
all the authority in the Christian church, which was 
to remain after the death of the apostles ; and the 
introduction of the a^;^/'7ro/,«,?jv appears inconsistent with 
the idea of the T^g<y:ur£gft/ being accountable to any 
individual teacher, after the apostles ceased to re- 
present the authority of the chief Shepherd upon 

The Presbyterians say further, that it may be 
gathered from the 'New Testament, that T^s^urs^o/, 
having received, by ordination from the apostles, 
the right of governing the church, had also the right 



of conveying to others, by ordination, all the powers 
with which they had been invested. This appears, 
in the first place, because they are not prohibited 
from so doing. For since it was the intention of 
Christ, that there should be a succession of office- 
bearers having rule in his church, and since the na- 
tural method of continuing this succession is through 
those who have been themselves invested wath the 
character, nothing less than an express inhibition 
can satisfy us that the 'tt^zsQuts^o/, the first office-bear- 
ers whom the apostles ordained, were restrained from 
ordaining others. But there neither is any such in- 
hibition, nor is it possible there can be ; because the 
names scr/^xo'Tro; and '^r^sG^vn^oi being used in the New 
Testament promiscuously, even although there were 
any passages, as there are none, investing sr/cpio-ro/ 
with the right of ordination, still we could not be 
sure that those, who in other places are called '^rocffQvrspo.', 
were not included under this name. But, in the se- 
cond place, that 'r^sirCursgo/ were not excluded from the 
right of ordination, is made manifest by what the 
apostle says of Timothy. For, as if to show that 
the office of -r^sffCurs^o/ was not degraded by the tem- 
porary authority, which w^e understand to have been 
conveyed to this extraordinary officer, we are told 
that they had a part in his ordination. The apostle 
indeed speaks, 2 Tim. i. 6, of yjicK^iia tou ©sov, osffnv sv m 

dta rrig tTikffiOjg rcov yji^oiv (mov. But he Spcaks, 1 Tim. iv. 
14, of the same yjx^s<S[jja, 6 m&Tj co/ d/a 'rr^opTiniag, [/.zra i'Xih<iz(t)(; 

rm %£/gwi' To\j 'TT^io-Q-ors^iou. So that the apostle, who had 
ordained many elders before he met with Timothy, 
appears to have called their assistance in the ordina- 
tion of this person ; which may be regarded as an 
apostolical acknowledgment of what we found to be 


implied in the nature of their office, that they have 
a right to ordain. 

Although this train of reasoning, employed by the 
Presbyterians, should be vmderstood to prove that 
the distinction between the order of bishops and the 
order of presbyters, which is the foundation of the 
Episcopal form of government, is unknown to the 
New Testament, yet if it could be shov/n that this 
distinction has obtained in the Christian church ever 
since the days of the apostles, it might appear to de- 
rive, from this early and uniform practice, a sanc- 
tion nearly equivalent to the express appointment of 
Scripture. For it might be argued, that although 
the apostles had not unequivocally declared this dis- 
tinction in their writings, the fact unquestionably 
proved that they had established it in the churches 
which they planted, and that from those who had 
the best opportunity of knowing their minds, there 
was diffused an universal impression that they in- 
tended it should be continual. In this manner, the 
Episcopal form of government would seem to stand 
nearly upon the same ground with the consecration of 
the Lord's day. There is no commandment in the 
New Testament appointing the change of the Sab- 
bath, from the seventh day of the week to the first ; 
and the instances of the apostles meeting for pub- 
lic worship, upon the first day, recorded in the New 
Testament, are not of themselves sufficient to prove 
that they had laid aside the practice of attending public 
worship, as our Lord did, on the seventh day; or that 
they meant the first day to be always kept holy. But 
when we conjoin with those instances, the primitive, 
universal, and uninterrupted practice of the Christ- 
ian world ; when we gather from the first Christian 


writers, from heathens, and from every kind of au- 
thentic evidence, that the disciples of Jesus eveiy- 
where agreed in the observance of the Lord's day, 
amidst their differences upon almost every other 
point, we cannot doubt that the change was made 
by an authority which all Christians recognised. 
Episcopal writers are accustomed, in the course of 
their argument, to refer to this as a parallel case ; 
and affirmino: that there is the same evidence of an 
apostolical appointment, in the distinction between 
bishops and presbyters, as in the change of the Sab- 
bath, they conclude that the alleged ambiguity in 
those passages of Scripture, where they think this 
distinction may be found, is completely removed, 
when we interpret them in the legitimate manner, 
by the practice of the Christian church ever since 
those passages were written. 

This mode of arguing is very plausible ; but when 
thoroughly canvassed, it affords a more uncertain 
support to the apostolical institution of Episcopacy 
than it seems at first sight to give. — You will be 
sensible of this, by attending to the three following- 

1. There is no authentic catalogue of the names 
of those who were bishops, for many of the ages im- 
mediately following the days of the apostles. The 
persecution to which the early Christians were ex- 
posed, the smallness of their numbers in many of 
the places where they assembled, and the secrecy 
with which they were obliged to hold their meet- 
ings, did not admit of records regularly kept, and 
transmitted in a state of preservation to distant 
ages. Of the succession in many churches, during 
the first and second centuries, we know nothing : 


and even with regard to those, which, either from 
their being mentioned in Scriptm^e, or from the ce- 
lebrity of the cities where they were planted, make 
a conspicuous figure in ecclesiastical history, there is 
the greatest intricacy, and contradiction, and doubt- 
ful conjecture in the attempts to ascertain the suc- 
cession of their teachers. These attempts could not 
be conducted with much probability of success, till 
after Christianity became the established religion of 
the empire. We meet with an example in the eccle- 
siastical history of Eusebius. He was bishop of Ce- 
sarea, and a man of great influence at the court of 
Constantine. Yet even with all his solicitude to 
discover the truth, and all the means of information 
which he had it in his power to command, he begins 
his catalogue with declaring, that " it is not easy 
to say who were the disciples of the apostles, that 
were appointed to feed the churches which they 
planted, excepting only those whom we may learn 
from the writings of Paul."* It is manifest, that 
an, argument founded upon the uninterrupted suc- 
cession from the days of the apostles is very much 
weakened, when, upon tracing back this succession, 
we find an unavoidable, and an acknowledged un- 
certainty, at the very time when it is of most im- 
portance to the argument to know exactly what was 

2. This deficiency of catalogues cannot be suppli- 
ed by the manner in which ancient writers speak of 
what the apostles did. Although the names were 
lost, there might be so clear a description of the 
powers of the different offices, as would decide the 

* Hist. Eccles. iii. 4, 
VOL. III. 2 F 


controversy. But this is far from being the case. 
The same ambiguity in the meaning of the word 
bishop, which we remark in Scriptui'e, pervades the 
testimony which the earliest Christian writers bear 
to the establishment of Episcopacy. Thus when 
Clemens, one of the apostolical fathers, who wrote 
in the first century an epistle to the Corinthians, 
says in a passage already referred to, " the apostles 
preached through cities and countries, appointing 
their first disciples, after having proved them by the 

fepirit, to be S'TTigKoirovg xat diu/tovovg rm {MiXkovTMv mcrsvuv^ aUu 

left them directions that, after their death, other ap- 
proved men should succeed in their ministry," here 
is evidence of a succession of teachers, but no evi- 
dence that any of those teachers possessed the powers 
which are conceived to distinguish those, whom we 
now call bishops, from presbyters.* For Clemens 
uses a word which in Scripture is applied to all 
Christian teachers ; and by the omission of -rosffCurs^w 
in this early enumeration of office-bearers, he seems 
to consider z-TTKfKO'xoi and w^fc^yre^o/ as equivalent. Other 
ancient writers, too, in those very passages which 
have been quoted as their testimony to the uninter- 
rupted succession of bishops, are found, upon a cri- 
tical attention to their words, to mean nothing more 
than the succession of apostolical doctrine conveyed 
through the men, whom the apostles appointed to 
teach it, whether those men are called imcM'jrot or 

3. Lastly, with regard to this point of apostolical 
succession, it is to be considered that we have no 
reason to presume, that in all the places where the 

* Kino; on Prim. Churchy iv. 3. 


apostles preached, they observed one fixed course of 
settling church government. The book of Acts, af- 
ter the conversion of the apostle Paul, is chiefly a 
history of his journeyings ; and by comparing inci- 
dental passages of that book, with the information 
vrhich may be collected from his epistles, we are en- 
abled to form a conception of the plan of govern- 
ment which he established in some churches; or 
rather different systems with regard to that plan 
have been built upon his words. But we have no 
means of following him in a great part of his progress; 
and of what was done by the other apostles, who,^ 
in the execution of their universal commission, vi- 
sited different quarters of the world, Scripture give^ 
little information, and ancient writers speak very 
generally and uncertainly. Our knowledge, there- 
fore, extends to only a part of the practice of one 
apostle. But it is a conclusion which the premises 
by no means warrant, that what was done by one 
apostle in planting some churches, was done by every 
other apostle in planting all churches. The pre- 
sumption rather is, that the apostles would accom- 
modate establishments to circumstances, to the num- 
bers whom they had converted, or the numbers of 
future converts whom the largeness of the city or 
the situation of the country might lead them to ex- 
pect ; and that they would leave many things to be 
settled as the future occasions of the church might 
require. This is so agreeable to the course of hu- 
man affairs, to the shortness of the stay which the 
apostles could afford to make in most places, and to 
the general and prudential directions contained in 
the Epistles of Paul, that although we had no par« 


ticular authority for it, a candid inquirer would be 
inclined to suppose it must have happened. But 
the fact is, that some other writers say nearly the 
same thing, and Epiphanius, a bishop of the fourth 
century, gives precisely this account of the matter. 
The apostles, he states, were not able to settle all 
things at once. But according to the number of be- 
lievers, and the qualifications for the different offices 
which those whom they found appeared to possess, 
they appointed in some places only a bishop and dea- 
cons, in others, presbyters and deacons ; in others, a 
bishop, presbyters, and deacons ; and this, says Epi- 
phanius, accounts for the variety in the addresses 
used by Paul in his Epistles, as he wrote according 
to the present state of things before the church had 
received all its offices.* 

As far as the authority of Epiphanius is of any 
weight, this statement contradicts the opinion of an 
universal establishment of Episcopacy by the apos- 
tles, and a continued succession of bishops from their 
days. But it will occur to you, that he seems to re- 
present the Episcopal form of government as the 
completion of that plan which they began, and which 
they would have completed themselves, if circum- 
stances had permitted. Here, then, is a strong 
ground to which the defenders of that form may be- 
take themselves, after all that has been said. For 
allowing, what they do not allow, that in Scripture 
there is no evidence of an intention to establish a 
permanent distinction between bishops and presby- 
ters, and allowing that there is a chasm of many 

* Ireniciim^ vi. 


years after the days of the apostles, in which there 
is no evidence of a succession of persons having those 
peculiar powers which are ascribed to bishops, yet, 
it is certain, that the history of the Christian church 
presents to every observer that form of government 
which is called Episcopal. There may have been, 
from various local causes, instances of church go- 
vernment being conducted for many years without 
bishops ; and it may be true, that some nations, as 
has been affirmed with regard to Scotland in early 
times, had no Christian teachers bearing that name. 
But these partial interruptions or irregularities are 
overlooked by one who attends to the general ap- 
pearance of Christendom. For, although in Scrip- 
ture, and in the writings of the apostolical fathers, 
bishops and presbyters may be confounded, yet, in 
the second century, the name bishops appears to 
have been appropriated to an order of men, who had 
a priority in rank above other Christian teachers ; 
and from the second century to the time of the Re- 
formation, it is unquestionable that this order of 
men continued to exist in almost all parts of the 
Christian world, was acknowledged to possess the 
right of exercising peculiar powers, and was look- 
ed up to with respect, and a degree of submis- 
sion, by both clergy and laity. Now, this general 
consent of the Christian church seems to afford con- 
vincing evidence, that the distinction between bishops 
and presbyters^ if not founded in Scripture or apos- 
tolical appointment, was a continuation of that esta- 
blishmeut which the apostles began, and probably 
the consequence of directions which they gave in 
planting churches. At least, it appears to be incum- 
bent upon those, who have departed from this early 


and general practice, to give some other account, 
equally rational and probable, of the manner in 
which it was introduced. 

The challenge is undoubtedly a fair one ; and the 
strength of the Episcopal cause lies in the statement 
which I have now given. Yet, notwithstanding 
the presumption in favour of the apostolical appoint- 
ment of Episcopacy, which certainly arises from its 
having had possession of the Christian church for so 
many ages, we think we are able to show that the 
form of government, to which Presbyterians have 
recurred, is not to be regarded as a novel invention. 
From various circumstances formerly mentioned 
it appears probable, that though the apostles did not 
follow one uniform course, yet, in many of the prin- 
cipal cities which they visited, they ordained a num- 
ber of teachers, whom they called '^r^iffQvn^oi. In 
Ephesus, Corinth, Jerusalem, and other places, the 
number of believers, even during the life of the 
apostles, was probably too great to assemble in one 
house, so that in those places there might be a ne- 
cessity for more than one teacher. But, indepen- 
dently of this circumstance, the apostles, according 
to an expression that occurred in the passage lately 
quoted from Clemens, had a regard to the interests 
ruv [LsWovrm cr/mus/v ; and when, being themselves upon 
the spot, they could exercise that gift of " discern- 
ing spirits," which was one of the extraordinary 
powers conferred upon them by the Holy Ghost, 
they chose to provide for the future increase of be- 
lievers in different districts, by setting apart, " for 
the work of the ministry," such as they found wor- 
thy. This coetus presbyterorum attended to all the 
spiritual concerns of the Christians in the city where 


they resided, apportioning among themselves the dif- 
ferent offices which might minister to their edifica- 
tion and comfort ; and they were ready to embrace 
every favourable opportunity of communicating to 
the inhabitants of the adjoining region, those glad 
tidings which had been unfolded in the city by the 
apostles themselves. A body of presbyters, acting 
in concert for these ends, would naturally hold fre- 
quent meetings, that individuals might report their 
success, and that all the members might consult 
about the most prudent methods of promoting their 
common object. In these meetings some person 
would preside for the sake of order ; and whether 
this precedency went by seniority, or by rotation, 
or was a permanent ofiice conferred by election 
upon one of the presbyters, it implied, in the per- 
son who held it, a precedency, an efficiency, a <le- 
gree of control over the rest, and a title to re- 
spect To this person two names appear to have 
been applied in very ancient times, iirisxo'xnc, and ayyiXoc. 
There was a peculiar propriety in giving him the 
name st/cxocto?, while the other members of the coetus 
retained the name ^^strCyrs^o/, because, as these two 
names are in Scripture equivalent, this appropria- 
tion did not imply that he possessed any powers 
different in kind from those of presbyters ; it only 
intimated his being invested by office with a certain 
inspection. The other name ayyzXog was probably 
borrowed from the service of the Jewish synagogue, 
where it was applied to the person who presided in 
the worship, and exhorted the people. It is found 
in the epistles sent by the apostle John, in the book 
of the Revelation, to the seven churches of Asia, 
every one of which is inscribed t'jj ayy^X'^. rm Epa/vr,; 


sxxXjjtf/aj, ry}g sx'/tXyjffiag S/oougva/wi/, r7}g sv Tls^yafitfj exxX^jovaj, 

&c. We know that at Epliesus, one of the seven 
churches, there were several elders whom Paul had 
ordained. But if one of this <^oetus presbyterorum 
was president, it was natural for the apostle to in- 
scribe the epistle to him ; and as the name r^ wyysXu) 
TYjg ixxXrioiag Certainly leads us to think of one, and not 
of many, we consider it as the name of the presi- 
dent. While the joint employment of the pastors, 
in caring for the spiritual interests of the Christians 
in the city, thus gave occasion to the existence of a 
person who stood forth distinguished from the rest, 
their labours in converting the inhabitants of the 
adjoining country tended to produce the same effect. 
If these labours were crowned with any degree of 
success, the congregations formed by them would 
feel a connexion with the mother church, from which 
they had received their pastors. The presbyters 
settled in the country would probably wish to main- 
tain a fellowship with the coetus 'presbijterorum to 
which they had belonged ; or the care of all the 
Christians, both in the city and in the country, 
would be considered as belonging to the whole coetus^ 
who would assign tasks and departments to individual 
members, as appeared to them most expedient. In 
either case, this increase of the number of Christians 
would multiply the occasions, upon which the per- 
son who presided over the coetus would appear in 
his character of president, and afford him various 
opportunities of extending his claims, and enlarging 
his pov/ers ; so that with no greater degree of saga- 
city and attention to the succession of events than 
is commonly displayed in the conduct of human af- 
fairs, the president of the ccetus presbyterorum might 


establish himself in such a pre-eminence over the 
individual members, as corresponds to the descrip- 
tion given in the second and third centuries of the 
dignity of a bishop. 

We cannot doubt that common prudence would 
dictate that gradual extension of the powers of the 
bishop, which might create the least possible alarm ; 
and yet we are unable to tell all the steps, by which 
the president of the college of presbyters rose to the 
estimation of being an office-bearer exalted above 
presbyters by special powers ; nor can we assign the 
dates of the several extensions of his privileges. 
But, if the most zealous friends of episcopacy are 
obliged to plead the deficiency of all the ecclesiasti- 
cal records of early times, as an apology for their 
not producing authentic catalogues of that succes- 
sion of bishops which they pretend to have existed, 
we are equally entitled to plead the same deficiency, 
in excuse of the want of particularity in our deline- 
ation of that progress, by which we account for the 
introduction of episcopacy. We hold that the pro- 
gress is abundantly probable, by being agreeable to 
the course of human affairs in other things ; and we 
find this general probability very much confirmed 
by two particular circumstances belonging to this 
subject. One is, that, after the days of the apostles, 
there did arise, by human institution, an imparity 
among the bishops. For although every bishop 
claims, in respect of his office, to be a successor of 
the apostles, and although ancient writers agree that 
a bishop of the poorest city has the same priesthood 
as a bishop of the richest, and that, in the care of 
his own diocese, he has full power to determine for 
himself, and is subject to none but Christ, yet there 


was introduced in the first four centuries, the gra- 
dation of patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops, and 
bishops. There were the patriarchs of Rome, Con- 
stantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, whose juris- 
diction extended over all the Christian church ; un- 
der these were the metropolitans, who presided in 
the several provinces ; and under them the arch- 
bishops, each of whom had the inspection of several 
bishops in a district. This gradation was probably- 
introduced by those general councils, which, in the 
second century, began to be held by Christians, and 
in which it was considered as a piece of respect 
due to the principal cities of the empire, that the 
bishops of those cities should preside. Various cir- 
cumstances led the Christians, even before their re- 
ligion had the benefit of a public establishment, to 
accommodate the government of the church to the 
government of the state ; and when the empire be- 
came Christian, Constantine judged it a matter of 
policy to complete this accommodation. In con- 
formity to the exarchates, provinces, and districts, 
into which he divided the empire, he established a 
hierarchy composed of different orders of bishops, who 
were distinguished from one another, not only in 
respect of rank, but also in respect of privileges and 
power ; and so agreeable was this establishment to 
the practice which the Christians themselves had 
begun, and to their sentiments, that the council of 
Nice, which met so early as A. D. 325, recognised the 
prerogatives claimed by the bishops of Rome, An- 
tioch, and Alexandria, as ra a^x^^ia sdri, and declared 
that it would disown every bishop, who is ordain- 
ed xcoPig yv^mi rou (I'^TPO'TtoXiTov. Now, if this limitation of 
the powers of bishops, and this subjection of many 


of them to those with whom they were originally 
equal, had become so general during the first three 
centuries, as to obtain, in 325, the highest eccle- 
siastical sanction, we have no reason to be surpris- 
ed, if, in the same time, a bishop should be exalt- 
ed from being the first among equals chosen by 
their suffrage, to be accounted an office-bearer of a 
higher order than presbyters. The Episcopal writ- 
ers say that the cases are by no means similar, be- 
cause all bishops are by their office equal, whereas 
bishops and presbyters are so essentially distinct, 
that it never was accounted lawful for presbyters to 
intermeddle in those actions which are appropriated 
to a bishop. But, in answer to this, we bring for- 
ward a second circumstance, that many expressions 
in ancient writers correspond to this account of the 
origin of Episcopacy, and that there are some pas- 
sages in which the same account is given. There 
are, it is true, books that assume a very early date, 
which speak clearly and strongly of the superiority 
of bishops above presbyters ; — such as the apostoli- 
cal constitutions, and the larger epistles of Ignatius. 
But it is now generally understood by learned men, 
that these books are full of interpolations, the works 
of a much later age, inserted for the very purpose of 
magnifying the episcopal office. Those writers of 
the second and third centuries, whose works are ad- 
mitted to be genuine, abound with expressions 
which represent tiie presbyters as partners with the 
bishops, in the honours and duties of the episcopal 
office. They call the presbyters, as well as the bi- 
shops, the successors of the apostles ; and Cyprian, , 
bishop of Carthage, who is esteemed one of the most 
zealous defenders of Episcopacy, declares, that it was 


his invariable rule to do nothing without the advice 
and concurrence of his compresbyters.* Jerome, 
who lived about the end of the fourth century, gives 
in different parts of his works, precisely the same 
account of the origin of Episcopacy as we do. In 
one place, where he quotes all the passages of the 
New Testament, in which the names bishops and 
presbyters appear to be synonymous, he says that, 
before there were parties in religion, churches were 
governed communi consilio preshyterorum. But 
that afterwards, in order to pull up the roots of di- 
vision, toto orhe decretiim est, i. e. it became an 
universal practice founded upon experience of its 
expediency, that one of the presbyters should be cho- 
sen by the rest to be the head, and that the care of 
governing the church should be committed to him. 
Let presbyters, therefore, he says, know that they 
are subject, by the custom of the church, to him 
who presides over them ; and let bishops know that 
they are greater than presbyters, rather by custom 
than by the appointment of the Lord, and that still 
the church ought to be governed in common. 

So pointed a testimony against the apostolical in- 
stitution of Episcopacy, proceeding from a writer so 
respectable and so ancient as Jerome, whom Erasmus 
calls without controversy the most learned of Christ- 
ians, forms an authority which th€ Presbyterians 
gladly lay hold of, and which their antagonists show 
an extreme solicitude to invalidate. It is said that 
Jerome was too late to know the truth ; that being 
himself only a presbyter, he was willing to propa- 
gate a system which might bring bishops nearer to 

* King on the Prim. Church;, iv. 4 ; v. 6. 


a level with himself, and that in this system he is 
singular. We, on the other hand, are not disposed 
to entertain any suspicion with regard to the motives 
of his testimony, because he appears to us only to 
assert, at a time when he had more opportunities of 
information than we have, the same thing which we 
gather from the words of Scripture, from the general 
appearance of the primitive church, and from various 
particular expressions of Christian writers. We do 
not account his testimony singular, although no per- 
son has said precisely the same thing. But when 
we find Augustine, who was a bishop, writing to 
Jerome, Secundum honorum vocahula quce jam eccle- 
site US21S ohtinuit, episcopatus preshyferio major est ;* 
when we find Isidore, bishop of Seville, 200 years 
after, where he has stated the different offices in 
which presbyters are partners with bishops, adding 
these words, Sola propter auctoritatem summo sacer- 
doti clericorum ordlnatio reservata est, ne a midtis 
ecclesicB disciplina vindicata concordkim solveret: — 
and when we find the second council of Seville, about 
the same time, using these words, Quamvis cuvi 
episcopis plurium preshyterls minlsterioriim commu- 
nis sit dispensation qucedam noveUis et ecclesiasticis 
regulis sibi prohihita noveri?it ;-f we cannot enter- 
tain a doubt, that an opinion somewhat similar to 
ours, concerning the introduction of Episcopacy as a 
matter of order, and the gradual extension of the 
claims and privileges of bishops, was very far from 
being peculiar to Jerome. It is true that this opin- 
ion, although corresponding with various incidental 
expressions in numberless writers, was not, before 

* Aug. Ep. xxix. f Irenicum, chap. vi. 


the Reformation, generally brought forward in clear 
words. But this we think may be accounted for, 
by an apprehension that the dignity and authority 
of the episcopal order, which was esteemed essential 
to the honour and peace of the church, would be 
weakened by recalling to the minds of the people 
the manner in which it arose. The reformers, by 
whom the Presbyterian church was settled, were re- 
strained by no such delicacy. Considering the dis- 
tinction between bishops and presbyters as having no 
foundation in Scripture, and wishing to apply an ef- 
fectual remedy to the abuses which had been intro- 
duced in the progress of human ambition, by the 
practice of investing bishops with powers superior 
to presbyters, they did not consider the antiquity or 
universality of the practice as any reason for its be- 
ing continued ; and they resolved to provide for the 
order of the Christian society, by recurring to what 
appeared to them the primitive Scripture model. 
The fundamental principle, therefore, of the govern- 
ment which they established is this, that all minis- 
ters of the Gospel are equal in rank and in power. 
While certain parts of the apostolical office expired 
Avith the persons to whom it was committed by the 
Lord Jesus, the right of performing all the ministe- 
rial functions, which were intended to be perpetual 
in the Christian church, is conceived to be conveyed 
by the act of ordination, so that every person who is 
ordained is as much a successor of the apostles as 
any teacher of religion can be. This essential equa- 
lity of all the ministers of the Gospel is inconsistent 
with the idea of prelacy, or any superiority of office 
in the Christian church above that of presbyters ; 
and it admits no other official preference, but that 


which is constituted by voluntary agreement for the 
sake of order. Thus, if a number of those, who are 
called in the New Testament indiscriminately 'z^za^un^oi 
or i<ffKs%omii have the charge of a large city or a terri- 
tory, it is necessary for the conduct of their deliber- 
ations, and the execution of their sentences, that some 
one should preside in their meetings ; and in the 
mode of nominating the president, there may be con- 
siderable variety. The members may succeed to the 
office by seniority, or one may be elected for life, or 
a new president may be chosen at stated times. In 
some of those churches upon the Continent, which 
acknowledge a parity of orders, there are superin- 
tendents, prcepositi, or inspectores, who are appoint- 
ed for life to preside in the council of presbyters, 
and are invested with a kind of inspection over the 
individual pastors. But, having no other superiori- 
ty than that which is necessarily implied in the office 
of president, and no claim to any powers or privi- 
leges from which presbyters are necessarily exclud- 
ed, they are only accounted jp/'i???/ inter pares. The 
greater part of Presbyterian churches, from a jea- 
lousy lest prelacy be introduced under the form of 
superintendency, prefer the frequent election of a 
new president or moderator, who, being the execu- 
tive officer of the society in which he presides, acts 
in their name, and appears at their head, but who, 
when his term is expired, returns to a perfect equa- 
lity with his brethren. * 

* This is the fundamental principle of the Presbyterian go- 
vernment, and a general account of the method of preserving 
order, which is there substituted in place of Episcopacy. A more 
particular delineation of the system erected upon this foundation. 


together with some remarks suggested by the review which has 
been taken of the Episcopal and Presbyterian forms of church 
government, will be found in Section II. of A View of the Consti- 
tution of the Church of Scotland, published by the author in 1817. 
The question respecting the office of lay elders is there briefly 
discussed, the heads of argument only being given. The argu- 
ment might have been somewhat extended here from the author's 
manuscripts ; but it did not seem material to swell the present 
work, by enlarging on the subject.— Ed, 




I COME now to the second great division, into which 
all the questions that have arisen upon the subject 
of church government may be resolved, viz. the opi- 
nions that have been maintained respecting the na- 
ture and the degree of power implied in that go- 

There were times when these opinions held an 
importance in the public estimation, and were de- 
fended with a zeal and animosity, of which it is 
difficult for us in our day to form a conception. I 
am very far from wishing to revive any portion of 
that bitterness ; nor do I think it necessary for you 
to be intimately acquainted with all the tenets and 
arguments which have been broached in this volum- 
inous controversy. I shall be able sufficiently to ac- 
complish the purpose of this part of my course, by 
reducing all that may be said concerning the powers 
implied in church government, under five general 
positions. In illustrating these positions, I shall 
introduce the chief opinions that have been held up- 
on this subject ; and, by this manner of introducing 
them, I shall state, in the order which it will be 
easiest for you to follow and to retain, because it is 
the most natural order, both the principles from 

VOL. III. 2 G 


which the several opinions flow, and the sources 
from which the antagonists of each of them derived 
what they accomited a sufficient confutation. 

1. The first general position is this, that the power 
implied in the exercise of church government is not 
a power created by the state, or flowing entirely 
from those regulations, which the supreme rulers of 
the state may choose to make with regard to the 
Christian society. 

It is necessary to begin with opposing this funda- 
mental position to an opinion, which, from its author, 
is known by the name of Erastianism. In the 
course of the sixteenth century there flourished 
Erastus, a native of Switzerland, an acute philoso- 
pher, and a learned physician. In opposition to the 
judicial astrology which was then esteemed and 
practised, he recommended and improved the study 
of chemistry. Amongst other branches of the learn- 
ing of the times which engaged his researches, he 
did not neglect theology. He embraced the reform- 
ed religion from conviction : but in consequence of 
the exorbitant claims advanced both by the Pope 
and by the rulers of some of the reformed churches, 
he conceived it was his duty as a good protestant, 
in the beginning of the Reformation, to resolve all 
the powers exercised by church governors into the 
will of the state. It was his opinion, that the of- 
fice-bearers in the Christian church, as such, are 
merely instructors, who fulfil their office by admon- 
ishing and endeavouring to persuade Christians, but 
who have no power, unless it is given them by the 
state, to inflict penalties of any kind. Every thing, 
therefore, which we are accustomed to call eccle- 
siastical censure, was considered by him as a civil 


punishment, which the state might employ the min- 
isters of religion to inflict, but which, as to the oc- 
casion, the manner and the effect of its being inflict- 
ed, was as completely under the direction of the 
civil power, as any branch of the criminal code. 

We shall afterwards find, that the inconveniencies, 
which this opinion was meant to remedy, may be 
obviated in other ways. As to the opinion itself, it 
discovers those partial views which the considera- 
tion of inconveniencies often occasions ; and it seems 
impossible for any person, whose mind comprehends 
the whole subject, not to perceive that the opinion is 
false. Even were the Christian society merely a volun- 
tary association, into which men entered without being 
obliged to it, still this society would possess the right 
which is inherent in the nature of all societies, of 
defending itself against intrusion and insult, and of 
preserving the character which it chose to assume, 
by refusing to admit those whom it judged unworthy 
of being members, or by requiring them to depart. 
But the Christian church is to be regarded in a much 
higher light than as a voluntaiy association. It is 
a society created by divine institution, founded in the 
duty which Jesus requires of his disciples to " con- 
fess him before men," and to unite for the purpose 
of performing certain rites. The members of this 
society, as his disciples, profess to believe certain 
doctrines, and declare that they are bound to main- 
tain a certain character. This profession and de- 
claration, being the very terms which bind the so- 
ciety together, are implied in the solemnities by 
which every member is admitted, or expresses his 
resolution to continue in the society. The adminis- 
tration of these solemnities, therefore, while it pre- 


vents those who do not comply with the terms from 
being admitted, indicates a warrant from the found- 
er of the society, to deprive of all its privileges those, 
who, after having been admitted, depart from the 
terms upon which their admission proceeded. It is 
reasonable to think that the same persons, who are 
appointed to administer the solemn rites by which 
the society is distinguished from all others, will be 
intrusted with the power of judging who are to be 
admitted, and who may deserve to be excluded from 
the society ; and it is obvious to every one who reads 
the New Testament, that the names there given to 
those persons are expressive of the degree of inspec- 
tion and authority, which this act of judgment im- 
plies. They are called riyou(i?voi, i'Tnc'/.o-Troi, -r^oso-rwrgj. They 
are commanded not only d/datrxsiv, vovkniv, cra^axaXs/v, but 
also ikzyxiiv, zmTi[j.auv. Our Saviour, in the days of his 
ministry, before he had fully constituted his church, 
spoke of a case in which it was the duty of Christ- 
ians to consider a person, who had been a brother, 
as having, by his own fault, forfeited that character, 
so as to deserve to be looked upon as a heathen and 
a publican. Matth. xviii. 17- After the church 
was constituted, the apostle speaks of xySs^v^j^s/c, as 
well as biba.c7iaXo\)g, being set in it by God. 1 Cor. xii. 
28. He claims an sgo^^r/a as belonging to him. 2 Cor. 
X. He exercises that i^oma, by commanding the Co- 
rinthians gga/^s/i/ a wicked person who had been a 
member of that church ; he exhorts Christians fj^ri 

6mava(iiyvu6&ai zav r/j adsX(pog ovo(Ma^ofj^ivog Xoido^og^ yj fishffog, rj a^'^a^, 

&c. ; he represents it as their duty K^m/v ou roug gjw, ax?.a 
roug SUM ; and he assigns as a reason for their exercis- 
ing this judicial power over those who were mem- 
bers of the church, that the wicked person, by being 


thus separated, might be amended, or brought to a 
better mind, and that the infection of his wickedness 
might be prevented from spreading. 1 Cor. v. Now 
these are general reasons arising from the nature 
and purposes of the Christian society, and totally 
independent of any authority which the church may 
derive from the state ; and the church acted upon 
these reasons, both in the days of the apostles, and 
in the subsequent ages, when it derived no counte- 
nance or support from the state, but suffered perse- 
cution. Even then it exercised the power resulting 
from its character, delegated to it by its author, and 
implied in the designations given to its office-bearers, 
by rebuking and censuring the faults of its members, 
and by expelling those whom it judged unworthy 
of its privileges. 

These reasonings and facts seem to establish, with 
incontrovertible evidence, that some kind of autho- 
rity over the members belongs essentially to the go- 
vernors of the Christian society ; that, as the church 7 
did exist before it was united wath the state, it may 
exist without any such union ; and that it will pos- 
sess, in this state of separation, when it can derive 
no aid from civil regulations, all the authority which 
Christ meant to convey through his apostles to their 
successors, and of the exercise of which the apostles 
have left examples. The same reasoning arid facts 
also prove, that when the church receives the pro- 
tection and countenance of the civil power, she does 
not, by this alliance, lose those rights and powers 
which are implied in church government, as such. 
But as the church may encroach upon the state, by 1 
advancing claims which are not warranted by the f * 
purposes of her institution, or the Avill of her found- J 



er ; so, on the other hand, the state may violate the 
immunities of the church, may intrench upon that 
jurisdiction which is essential to her character, and 
may forcibly subject the members of the Christian 
society to civil regulations with regard to those parts 
of their conduct, which, from their nature, fall un- 
der the authority of the office-bearers of the church. 
It requires a sound judgment, a mind which can 
easily disembarrass itself from the false views sug- 
gested by prejudice, passion, and interest, to make, 
upon all occasions, the necessary discrimination be- 
tween the rights of the church, and the rights of the 
state ; and as the line of distinction is not always 
obvious to an ordinary observer, those who keep on 
one side of the line are very apt to bring the charge 
of Erastianism against those who keep on the other. 
In modern times, this charge is not understood to 
imply that those, against whom it is brought, deny 
the church any power except what she derives from 
the state ; for few follow the principles of Erastian- 
ism so far. The charge is meant to impute to the 
members of an established church too great a de- 
ference to the civil authority from which they derive 
protection, and an unbecoming tameness in submit- 
ting to invasions of those rights, which the church 
ought to hold sacred. It is a charge very common- 
ly brought by the dissenters of this country against 
the church of Scotland ; and in both the established 
churches of this island, there are members, whose 
zeal, in defence of what they account the rights of 
the church, leads them to accuse of lukewarmness 
and Erastianism those who do not entertain the same 
opinion concerning the nature of the rights, or con- 
cerning the most prudent and effectual manner of 


preserving them inviolate. It is often a matter of 
intricate discussion, how far the accusation is just. 
Many of the cases, to which it has been applied, will 
occur in the progress of illustrating other general 
positions respecting church government; and I will 
not anticipate the mention of them. It is enough 
that I have given notice of the modern meaning of 
Erastianism ; and from that meaning it will be per- 
ceived that my first general position may be consi- 
dered as incontrovertible ; for almost all who are now 
accused of Erastianism admit that the church has 
powers independent of the state. They differ from 
others as to the measure and extent of those powers, 
or the prudence of exercising them : they may per- 
haps regard the advantages w^hich the church de- 
rives from an union with the state as more than a 
compensation for any restrictions which are imposed 
upon her ; but they consider the acquiescence in 
these restrictions as a voluntary surrender, a com- 
pact in which the church has gained, by giving up 
what she had a right to retain. And thus the modern 
system of Erastianism proceeds upon this principle, 
that the power of the church is essential and intrinsic: 
it admits of modifications of this intrinsic power 
which to some appear exceptionable ; but it acknow- 
ledges, that if the church, instead of deriving any be- 
nefit from the state, were opposed and persecuted by 
the civil magistrate, it would be not only proper, but 
necessary, to put forth of herself those powers, which, 
in more favourable circumstances, she chooses to ex- 
ercise only in conjunction with the state. 

2. My second general position is, that the power 
inherent in the nature of the Christian society, which 
it derives from divine institution, and not from civil 


regulation, is merely a spiritual power; in other 
words, it is concerned only with the consciences of 
men, and gives no claim to any authority over their 
persons or their properties. 

It includes a right to administer instruction, ad- 
monition, reproof, censure — all that may establish 
those, who submit to it, in the practice of their duty, 
may improve their character, or make them ashamed 
of their faults. It includes also, we have seen, what 
is commonly called the power of excommunication, 
L e. a right, by a judicial sentence, to deprive of the 
privileges and benefits of continuing members of the 
Christian society those who are found unworthy. 
But this is the utmost length to which it can go. 
Whenever a person is excommunicated, or when he 
says that he no longer submits to the authority of 
church government, that authority ceases with re- 
gard to him ; he is to the church " as a heathen man 
and a publican ;" and excommunication, being the 
severest infliction within the compass of the power 
implied in church government, completely exhausts 
that power, so as to leave nothing more which it can 
warrantably do. 

That the power of which we are speaking is mere- 
ly a spiritual power, may easily be deduced from the 
purposes for which the Christian society was insti- 
tuted ; and this deduction is confirmed by explicit 
declarations of the divine founder. 

Human government is ordained of God, for the 
purpose of securing the subjects in the possession 
and enjoyment of their rights. The administration 
of it, therefore, implies the exercise of a coercive 
power, which may restrain those who are disposed 
to invade the rights of others, or which, if the exe- 


cution of their purpose is not prevented, may inflict 
such a punishment upon the transgression, as shall 
deter from a repetition of the like outrage. But the 
kingdom of Christ, being founded in opposition, not 
to human violence, but to the influence of an evil 
spirit, was established for the purpose of delivering 
men from this spiritual thraldom, by imparting to 
them the knowledge of that truth which Christ re- 
veals, by cherishing those graces which his Spirit 
forms, and by leading them, in the obedience of his 
precepts, and the imitation of his example, to that 
future happiness of which his mediation encourages 
them to entertain the hope. This kingdom was not 
intended to secure men in the enjoyment of their 
rights. For although the principles which it inspires 
render its dutiful subjects incapable of doing injury 
to others, and although the establishment and pro- 
pagation of it have produced a salutary effect upon 
the manners of mankind in general, still it supposes 
that the evil passions of men will continue to oper- 
ate ; it gives notice that wrong will be done ; it 
teaches how wrong ought to be borne ; and it repre- 
sents reproach, and injury, and persecution, as form- 
ing part of that discipline, by which its subjects are 
prepared for a higher state of being, where their suf- 
ferings are to cease, and their patience is to be re- 
warded. The administration of this kingdom, there- 
fore, does not imply the exercise of force. Although 
all power in heaven and in earth is committed to the 
Lord of this kingdom, yet, in that branch of the ad- 
ministration of his kingdom, which he has reserved 
in his own hands, he does not employ his power to 
place a guard round his faithful subjects. To that 
protection, which they derive from the general course 


of Providence, and from the means of defence fur- 
nished by human government, he makes no other 
addition, than the influence which his doctrine has 
upon the minds of their neighbours, and the esteem 
and good-will of which their own character, formed 
by his doctrine, renders them the object. In like 
manner, in that branch of the administration of the 
kingdom of Christ, which we call church govern- 
ment, he does not suppose that his office-bearers are 
invested with civil power. The end of their appoint- 
ment is, to bring to a better mind such of their 
brethren as have erred and transgressed ; and in this 
end they often succeed by the spiritual power which 
is given them. But they are not allowed to employ 
a method of cure inconsistent with the spirit of 
the Christian religion ; and those who are obstinate 
and incorrigible they are commanded to leave where 
they found them. 

There were three occasions in our Lord's life, up- 
on which, agreeably to the deduction that has now 
been made, he declared explicitly that the adminis- 
tration of his kingdom upon earth implied a spirit- 
ual, not a civil power. The first was his answer to 
an application made to him by one of his hearers, 
" Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the 
inheritance with me." Luke xii, 13. Instead of 
using his influence with either of the parties, or giv- 
ing any decision upon the matter in dispute, he said, 
" Man, who made me a judge or a divider over 
you ?" And he proceeded to guard his hearers against 
covetousness ; intimating, in the most significant 
manner, that his religion tends to form that eleva- 
tion of desire — that degree of detachment from the 
paltry and unsatisfying goods of this world, which 


will preserve his disciples from injuring one another ; 
but that, if this tendency fails in any instance, the 
party who considers himself aggrieved, must resort 
to the laws of his country, and seek redress in the 
ordinary course of justice. 

The second occasion was a request from two of 
his disciples, who, employing the fondness of a mo- 
ther as a cover for their own ambition, asked of Je- 
sus that, in his kingdom, which they then expected 
to be a kingdom of pomp and triumph, they " might 
sit the one on his right hand, and the other on his 
left." After exposing their ignorance and folly, he 
turned to the ten, who were moved with indignation 
at these two for asking an honour to which each 
thought himself equally entitled, and he said, Matt. 
XX. 25, 26, " Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles 
exercise dominion over them ; and they that are 
great exercise authority upon them. But it shall 
not be so among you ; but whosoever will be great 
among you, let him be your minister." In human 
governments, great men ^drazv^izuo-jct m/ TtaTiloucialpuai ; 
words which do not imply the abuse of power by ty- 
rannical rule, but merely the possession and the ex- 
ercise of power, that degree of influence and autho- 
rity which renders their offices an object of ambition. 
** It shall not," says Jesus to his disciples, " be so 
among you." Although there are persons distin- 
guished by the station which they hold in my king- 
dom, their office is a jninistry, not a dominion. They 
are subservient to the improvement of their breth- ? 
ren. They have the authority, and they are entit- ( "f^ 
led to the respect which their subserviency requires.^/ 
But they have none of the power and authority 


which is implied in the office of earthly rulers ; and 
their station is not an object of ambition. 

The third occasion was furnished by the examin- 
ation of our Lord before Pilate. The astonishment 
expressed by the Roman magistrate, at the mean ap- 
pearance of a man who claimed to be king of the 
Jews, drew from our Lord this declaration, John 
xviii. 36, 37, " My kingdom is not of this world ; if 
my kingdom were of this world, then would my ser- 
vants fight, that I should not be delivered to the 
Jews ; but now is my kingdom not from hence. 
Pilate therefore said unto him. Art thou a king then? 
Jesus answered. Thou sayest that I am a king. To 
this end was I born, and for this cause came I into 
the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. 
Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." 
These words require no commentary. Our Lord 
disclaims the use of force ; represents the influence 
of truth over the mind as the great instrument of 
his dominion ; and characterises the power exercised 
in his kingdom as a spiritual, not a civil power. 

The conduct of our Lord was agreeable to these 
declarations. He paid tribute ; he inculcated sub- 
mission to the established government, saying, 
" Render unto Csesar the things that are Caesar's ;" 
and although his miracles appeared at different times 
to have given him entire command of the multitude, 
he studiously avoided that ostentation of popularity, 
which might have disturbed the public peace. His 
apostles, in like manner, with the utmost solicitude, 
warned the first Christians against considering their 
faith, as furnishing any pretext for resisting the 
authority of civil government. " Submit yourselves 


to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake."* 
" Let every soul be subject to the higher powers." f 
The weapons of the Christian warfare are said to be 
" not carnal ;" ± and persecution for conscience sake, 
however sinful in those from whose authority it pro- 
ceeds, is not allowed by the apostles to justify resis- 
tance. § The first establishment of the Christian 
church required the frequent exercise of that apos- 
tolical authority, which, upon all proper occasions, 
is asserted with becoming dignity. But this autho- 
rity is distinguished, both in the words and in the 
practice of the apostles, from everything which can be 
called a " lordship over God's heritage." In all the 
ordinances which they issued, they kept sacredly 
within the province which belongs to a spiritual 
power ; and in the directions given to Timothy and 
Titus, the most critical eye cannot discern the small- 
est deviation from that pure standard of church go- 
vernment, which the head of the church exhibited 
in these words, " my kingdom is not of this 

Thus clear and superabundant is the proof, that 
the power implied in church government is purely a 
spiritual, not in any degree a civil power. The uses 
which may be made of the position are not less im- 
portant than the proof of it is clear. 

It exposes, in the first place, the fallacy of the 
great argument upon which the Erastian system rests. 
There cannot, it is said, be any power in the state 
which is not created by the state ; otherwise there 
w^ould be, imperium in imperio, two separate autho- 

* 1 Pet. ii. 13. t Rom. xiii. 1. i 2 Cor. x. 4. 

§ 1 Pet. ii. 19, 20 ; iii. 14. Rom. xiii. 5. 


rities and jurisdictions, which might require incon- 
sistent services, and assert opposite claims, so as to 
place the subjects in a situation in which it was im- 
possible for them to obey both. This argument 
would be unanswerable if the powers were of the 
same order, if both disposed of the persons and pro- 
perties of the subjects, and both employed force to 
insure obedience to their commands. But if the 
one is a civil and the other a spiritual power, they 
may unite with the most perfect harmony ; and in- 
stead of any inconvenience, the greatest advantages 
may result to both from their union. 

The advantages which the church imparts to the 
state arise from the nature and the purpose of that 
power which exists in every Christian society. This 
power, addressing itself to the understanding, to 
the conscience and the heart, may correct excesses 
of the passions which human regulations cannot 
reach, and, by furnishing refined and permanent 
principles of good conduct, may minister most effec- 
tually to the order and happiness of the community. 
This is the genuine influence of the doctrine of 
Christ. The power which is founded upon his doc- 
trine ministers its part of this influence, so long as 
it retains the character of being purely spiritual. It 
is perverted when it is rendered the instrument of 
disturbing the public tranquillity ; and it goes be- 
yond the purpose of its institution, when its particu- 
lar requisitions intrench upon that right over the 
persons or properties of the subjects, which belongs 
exclusively to the sovereign authority in the state. 

Such abuses have, indeed, frequently taken place 
in the Christian church. But they have always 
arisenfrom confounding a spiritual and a civil power; 


and the position which we have now ilhistrated, if 
well understood and followed out through its conse- 
quences, will always be sufficient to correct them. 
The correction of such abuses is the second purpose 
to which this position may be turned. This I shall 
illustrate by applying the position to the extrava- 
gant assertions of some of the sects which appeared 
after the Reformation ; and also to the exemptions 
and powers claimed by the church of Rome. 

At the time of the Reformation, when the minds 
of men, newly emancipated from spiritual tyranny, 
were in a state of effervescence and commotion, such 
as they had not before experienced, there arose va- 
rious sects, who, although they differed in some 
points, received, from their repetition of baptism, 
the common name of Anabaptists, and who agreed 
also in considering the church of Christ as a society 
of saints, to which none could belong who were not 
free from sin. In consequence of this principle, 
they considered the office of magistracy, which is ap- 
pointed for the punishment of evil-doers, as useless 
amongst Christians. From talking of it as useless, 
they came to revile it as sinful ; and men of violent 
spirits, irritated by opposition, proceeded from words 
to actions ; collected a great army in the year 1525, 
and, to use the words of Mosheim, " declared war 
against all laws, governments, and magistrates, of 
every kind, under the chimerical pretext, that Christ 
was now to take the reins of civil and ecclesiastical 
government into his own hands, and to rule alone 
over the nations." * That army w^as dispersed by 
the princes of Germany ; but the principle upon 

* Mosheim's Eccles. Cent. xvi. Art. Anabaptist^;. 


which the army had acted was far from being eradi- 
cated. It often broke forth in occasional tumults ; 
it was fostered under a slight disguise in the creeds 
of those sects, which derived their names from the 
ancient Anabaptists ; it lifted its head in this coun- 
try during the turbulence of the 17th century ; 
and there is reason to believe that it still lurks in 
some of those sects which exist upon the Continent. 
It is a principle which requires to be corrected by 
punishment, not by reasoning ; and every approach 
to it, in the creed of any Christian society, ought to 
be narrowly watched as formidable to the state. It 
is unnecessary for me to prove that this horrid tenet 
is contrary to Scripture. I shall only refer to our 
Confession of Faith, chap. xx. xxiii. where passages 
are adduced in support of the positions there laid 
down, " that it is lawful for Christians to accept 
and execute the office of a magistrate ; and that 
they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall 
oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of 
it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the or- 
dinance of God, and may lawfully be called to ac- 
count, and proceeded against by the censures of the 
church, and by the power of the civil magistrate." 

The second position may also be applied to the 
exemptions and powers claimed by the church of 

It was one great object of the policy of the church 
of Rome to render the clergy of every country a 
distinct body in the state ; and thus, having no 
close connexion with any community, and acknow- 
ledging no other sovereign authority, they might, 
throughout all Christendom, be kept entirely de- 
pendent upon the Popes. For this purpose it was 



asserted that, in virtue of the sacredness of the sa- 
cerdotal character, the clergy were exempted from 
the ordinary jurisdiction of the countries where they 
resided, not only in spiritual, but also in civil mat- 
ters ; that they were not bound to pay tribute ; and 
that when they committed any crime, they were 
amenable only to their ecclesiastical superiors, and 
could not be punished by the civil magistrate. These 
claims withdrew from obedience to the laws a nu- 
merous order of men, who, in addition to their large 
property, had more learning than any other order ; 
and by instituting a gradation of ecclesiastical courts, 
from which there lay an appeal in the last resort to 
the court of Rome, rendered them subject to a fo- 
reign power. Claims so dangerous to the peace 
and order of society were advanced by slow degrees ; 
were artfully accommodated to times and circum- 
stances ; were always resisted by wise and able prin- 
ces ; and, in Britain, were abridged by various sta- 
tutes enacted in the times of Popery, and were finally 
abolished at the Reformation. In England it was 
declared by Parliament, and by the clergy, that to 
" the king's majesty the chief government of all es- 
tates of the realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or 
civil, in all causes, doth appertain, and is not, nor 
ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction."* 
In Scotland, too, all papal jurisdiction was at the 
same period abolished ; and our Confession of Faith 
declares, that " ecclesiastical persons are not exempt- 
ed from the duty of the people to pray for magis- 
trates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute 
and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and 

* Art. xxxvii. 
VOL. III. 2 H 


to be subject to their authority for conscience sake."* 
Both in England and in Scotland, indeed, clergymen 
are exempted from certain personal services, which 
are conceived to be inconsistent with their sacred 
function. Thej^ are not summoned as jurymen, and 
they are not obliged to serve in war. But ^hese ex- 
emptions are the result of positive statute, or of that 
immemorial custom, wliich receives the name of 
common lavv^ ; and they form part of that provision, 
which the state judges it proper to make, for the 
regular discharge of the duties incumbent upon the 
ministers of religion. Such exemptions, being ac- 
cepted as a civil privilege, and being limited by the 
terms of the grant, are a recognition on the part of 
the church, that it has no claim of right to any ex- 
emption, but that, agreeably to the declarations of 
Scripture, and the conduct of our Lord and his 
apostles, " every soul is subject to the higher pow- 
ers ;" in other words, that the authority of the state 
extends over ecclesiastical, as well as other persons. 
The church of Rome claimed not only exemptions, 
but also powers. The sentences of the ecclesiasti- 
cal courts often affected the most valuable civil rights 
of Christians. The ministers of religion arrogated 
a precedency of all civil magistrates, and a right to 
control the exercise of all civil jurisdiction. The 
popes granted the investiture of ecclesiastical bene- 
fices in a kingdom, without the consent, often in op- 
position to the declared pleasure of the sovereign. 
They presumed to absolve subjects from all obliga- 
tion to obey their civil rulers, when the conduct of 
the rulers gave offence to the church. They often 
deposed princes for heresy or contumacy ; and some 

* Confession of Faith, xxiii. 4. 


popes proceeded to sucli extravagance, as to affirm 
tliat Jesus Christ had given them power to dispose 
of all the kingdoms of the earth. These claims, op- 
posite as they are to the genius of Christianity, and 
hostile to the peace of society, were for many ages 
strenuously asserted, and often submitted to. Had 
the church been able to support them as uniformly, 
and to extend them as far as she wished, they would 
have produced throughout Christendom a vile, op- 
pressive, and rapacious despotism. The resistance, 
which was naturally and nobly made to them, pro- 
duced some of the most calamitous contests which 
history records ; and the memory of this usurpation 
should warn, not only rulers in Protestant countries 
to restrain every attempt w^hich any sect may make 
to engraft civil upon ecclesiastical power ; but also 
the office-bearers in the church of Christ to follow 
the directions and the example of their Master, by 
keeping scrupulously within their own province. 

In order to prevent misapprehension upon this 
subject, it is necessary to observe, that in the pro- 
gress of the connexion between . the church and 
the state, it generally happens that some matters of 
a civil nature are committed to the judgment and 
decision of ecclesiastical courts. This delegated 
jurisdiction is no usurpation on the part of the 
church, because, like the legal immunities of the 
clergy, it is the effect of statute ; and in the man- 
ner of exercising the civil powers thus delegated to 
the church, there is generally an acknowledgment 
that they flow from the state. 

In Scotland, the sentence of the church, admitting 
and receiving a person minister of a parish, gives 
him a legal right, which he would not otherwise 


have, to draw the stipend and other emoluments 
which belong to the minister ; and the sentence of 
the church courts, deposing him from the sacred of- 
fice of the ministry, deprives him, ipso facto, of all 
right to the stipend and emoluments which he had 
formerly drawn. These civil effects of the sentences 
of our church courts are an essential branch of the 
establishment of Presbytery in Scotland ; and there 
is one kind of business connected with that establish- 
ment, in which presbyteries are constituted by law 
civil courts. The expense of the manses and glebes, 
which the law allows to the ministers of the church 
of Scotland, is defrayed by the landholders of the 
parishes. They are assessed for this purpose by a 
judgment of the presbytery, to whom application 
must be made in the first instance, and who proceed, 
like civil courts, in the examination of the necessary 
witnesses. But as this is merely a regulation of 
conveniency, in a matter concerning which it would 
be very improper that the decision of a church court 
should be final, the powers of the presbytery, in as- 
signing manses and glebes, are limited ; and there 
lies an appeal, in any stage of their proceedings, to 
those courts, which usually determine questions that 
respect the property of the subjects. 

In England, besides those branches of jurisdiction 
that belong to the institution and deprivation of the 
ministers of the church, the law has submitted va- 
rious other matters to the jurisdiction of the bishops. 
In ancient times, all matters, as well spiritual as 
temporal, were determined in the county court, 
where the bishop and earl sat together. But Wil- 
liam the Conqueror separated the ecclesiastical from 
the temporal courts ; and, since his days, all the 


causes called ecclesiastical or spiritual have been 
tried, not in the civil courts of the realm, but in courts 
held by authority of the bishops, and according to 
the forms of proceeding peculiar to those courts. 
The spiritual causes, which most nearly affect civil 
rights, are questions respecting testaments or wills, 
and questions respecting marriage and divorce. Both 
these are in England subjected to the jurisdiction 
of the bishop ; the first, because testaments are often 
made in extremis^ when the clergy may be supposed 
to be present ; the second, because marriage, which 
is considered by the Roman Catholics as a sacrar 
ment, is generally solemnized in churches. In or- 
der to discuss the multiplicity of intricate business, 
which may be expected to arise upon these ques- 
tions in such a country as England, the bishops ap- 
point, for hearing and judging in causes that occur 
in their dioceses, officers under different names, ge- 
nerally laymen, skilled in the law, who, in the name 
of the bishop, but without his being present, and ge- 
nerally without his knowledge, decide according to 
established rules. With the name of one descrip- 
tion of these officers we are acquainted in this coun- 
try. For when the episcopal jurisdiction, which 
had been exercised under the authority of the Pope 
was abolished in Scotland at the Reformation, that 
the course of justice might not be stopped, a com- 
missary was named for every diocese ; and a com- 
missariot court, with jurisdiction over all Scotland, 
was established at Edinburgh. The commissaries 
of Scotland, at least the commissariot court in Edin- 
burgh, still retain the power of judging in questions 
of marriage and divorce, and confirmation of testa- 
ments, and thus afford us a specimen of those spiri- 


tual courts in England, where one considerable 
branch of the business of the nation is transacted. 

Whether the constitution of these spiritual courts 
be proper or not, is a question, concerning which, 
those who live under a different religious establish- 
ment ought to be very scrupulous in declaring any 
opinion. But thus much is manifest, that all the ju- 
risdiction which they exercise in civil matters is con- 
ferred by the lavv^ of the land ; and they are perpe- 
tually reminded and made to feel, in the exercise of 
this jurisdiction, that they are under the control of 
the law. The canon and civil laws, by which the 
spiritual courts judge, have their force in England, 
not from any original obligations to obey the re- 
scripts of Emperors, or the decrees of Popes, but 
purely because they have been received and allowed 
of by statute law, or by custom ; and while the spi- 
ritual courts are permitted to judge by those law^s, 
the courts of common law have a superintendence 
over them, explaining the laws which concern the 
extent of their jurisdiction, keeping them within the 
limits of that jurisdiction, and, if they exceed those 
limits, issuing prohibitions to restrain them, or sum- 
moning them to answer for their conduct in the civil 

Although then the courts in England, which are 
called spiritual, exercise jurisdiction in many ques- 
tions totally distinct from those, which properly fall 
under the cognizance of a power purely spiritual, 
this is not to be regarded either as an usurpation on 
the part of the church, or as an acknowledgment on 
the part of the state, that the church has any inhe- 
rent civil power, but merely as a part of the English 
constitution ; a branch of the civil and religious esr 


tablisliment of that couiitiy, by which questions of 
a certain kind are rppointed by the state to be tried 
and judged in a certain manner. 

The last use which I shall make of the second po- 
sition is to apply it to the effects of excommunica- 
tion. We have seen that church government im- 
plies a right to exclude from the privileges of the 
Christian society those who are deemed unv/orthy ; 
and that this is the utmost length to which that 
power can go. We find, indeed, the apostle Paul 
explaining that expression of our Lord, " let him 
who will not hear the church be to thee as an hea- 
then man and a publican," by exhorting the Christ- 
ians to withdraw themselves from any that walked 
disorderly, not to mingle freely vvdth a brother who 
had been guilty of any scandalous sin ; not to keep 
company with him, that he may be ashamed. * 
The primitive Christians, too, a body of men who 
were discouraged and persecuted by the state, felt 
that it. would have brought disgrace upon the so- 
ciety of the faithful, if any person who had commit- 
ted a flagrant crime had been allowed to remain 
amongst them, or to live upon terms of intimacy 
with the members after he was excluded. In all 
times, as circumstances may render excommunica- 
tion necessary, it is natural for the office-bearers of 
the church to warn the people against that familiar 
intercourse with the excommunicated, which might 
corrupt their own manners ; and if the people ap- 
prove of the sentence, they will be inclined to sup- 
port it, by behaving to the excommunicated with a 
degree of distance and reserve, expressive of the sen,- 

* 1 Cor. V. 2 Thcs. iii. 6—14. 


timents with which they regard his condition. At 
the same time, it follows clearly from the second po- 
sition, that the civil effects of excommunication de- 
pend entirely upon human laws. They vary with 
times and circumstances ; and the church has no right 
to say that a sentence, excluding a person from the 
participation of the ordinances of religion, shall in 
any manner affect his liberty, his property, or his 
condition as a member of civil society. The time 
indeed was, when, from the superstitious fears of ig- 
norance, and the deep persevering policy of the 
church of Rome, the excommunicated was consider- 
ed as having forfeited not only the privileges of a 
citizen, but the rights of a man ; when subjects were 
absolved from their allegiance to an excommunicat- 
ed prince, when all the connexions of human life were 
understood to be dissolved by this sentence, and, ac- 
cording to the system of the ancient druids, quihus ita 
interdictum est, Us omnes decedunt, et aditum eorum 
sermonemque defugiunt.^ These exertions of spiri- 
tual tyranny are the tale of former times ; and how- 
ever earnestly the office-bearers of the church may 
warn the people against associating freely with the 
excommunicated, and however much the people may 
think it their duty and their wisdom to listen to this 
warning, it is now clearly understood that excom- 
munication has no civil effects independent of posi- 
tive statute. 

In England, where a great deal of civil business 
is transacted through the medium of the spiritual 
courts, excommunication being the sentence pro- 
nounced upon those who are contumacious, and the 

* Cses. de Bell. Gall. vi. IS. 


instrument by which the spiritual courts support 
their authority, is made by statute to infer certain 
legal disabilities ; and if the excommunicated does 
not submit to the authority of the ecclesiastical 
courts within forty days, the bishop, i. e. his dele- 
gate, who exercises jurisdiction in his name within 
his diocese, may apply to the civil courts for a writ, 
de excommunicato capiendo. The civil courts are 
thus constituted judges of the occasion upon which 
the sentence was pronounced, and may either lend 
their assistance to the spiritual courts, or refuse the 
writ, as they see cause. The effect of the writ being 
issued, is, that the excommunicated person is commit- 
ted to prison, and remains there without bail till he 
submits. In Scotland, where there is hardly any civil 
business before the ecclesiastical courts, excommu- 
nication, according to the original design of that 
sentence, and the practice of the primitive church, 
is pronounced only in the case of those offences, 
which fall properly under the cognizance of a society 
invested with spiritual power. The legal disabilities 
which it inferred in ancient times were abolished 
after the Revolution ; ajid it is in this country pure- 
ly a spiritual censure. 

It is not upon this account a nugatory sentence. 
It may, indeed, be pronounced in so unadvised a 
manner as to be contemptible ; and an ill-timed dis- 
play of spiritual power may do more harm than good. 
In this case the fault lies with the office-bearers of 
the church. Even when it is just and well founded, 
it may be despised by men who have no sense of re- 
ligion, and no desire to maintain the appearances of 
decency in the eyes of their neighbours. With them, 
it only shares the contempt which they pour upon 


all the institutions of the Gospel ; but every person, 
who believes that Christ, a teacher sent from God, 
established a visible society upon earth, and requir- 
ed his disciples, as members of that society, to unite 
in acts of worship, by which they testify their re- 
verence for their common master, and promote the 
edification of one another, must consider a sen- 
tence by which he is justly excluded from that so- 
ciety as placing him in a dreadful situation ; and al- 
though it does not produce any consequences that 
are immediately felt to be hurtful in the business and 
common intercourse of life ; yet if, in this state of 
separation, he retains the faith of the Gospel, his 
mind will not be at ease, till he takes every proper 
and competent method of being restored to the com- 
munion of the church. 

3. My third general position is, that the spiritual 
power implied in church government, being derived 
from the Lord Jesus, is subordinate to his sovereign 
authority over the church. 

The whole system of truth revealed in the Gospel 
directs our attention to Jesus Christ, as the person 
by whose generous interposition the human race was 
redeemed ; and it is stated, that, in recompense of 
the sufferings which he underwent in accomplishing 
this object, " all things are put under his feet, and 
God hath given him to be the head over all things 
to the church."* As every doctrine is false, there- 
fore, which derogates from any of the offices that be- 
long to Jesus as the Saviour of the world, and which 
pretends to substitute any thing else in place of his 
interposition, so all authority in the church that is 

^ Kphes. i. 22, 


not derived from him must be an usurpation. Nei- 
ther is it enough that those who exercise the autho- 
rity use his name in acknowledgment of the origin 
of their power ; for the sovereign authority of the 
Lord Jesus requires, that what they profess to de- 
rive from him, they uniformly exercise according to 
his directions. Although he said to his apostles, " He 
that heareth you, heareth me ; and he that despis- 
eth you, despisethme;"* yet the commission which 
he gave them was, " Go, make disciples of all na- 
tions, teaching them to observe all things whatso- 
ever I have commanded you."f That commission 
implies, that the apostles were entitled to respect and 
obedience from the Christian world, only while they 
spoke agreeably to those words which their Master 
had put into their mouth, and which his Spirit 
brought to their remembrance. Accordingly, our 
Lord condemned the Pharisees, the religious teach- 
ers of his day, because, while they sat in Moses' 
seat, they taught for doctrines the commandments of 
men, and made the v/ord of God of none effect by 
their traditions : and he warned his disciples against 
that submission to those who taught in his name, 
which the Jewish people paid to their teachers, say- 
ing, " Be not ye called Rabbi ; for one is your Mas- 
ter, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. And call 
no man your father upon earth, for one is your Fa- 
ther, which is in heaven. Neither be ye masters ; 
for one is your Master, even Christ."; It is known, 
indeed, that Jesus, having confined his own teaching 
to the land of Judea, committed the propagation of 

* Luko X. 1(). t Matt, xxviii. If), 20. 

X Matt, xxiii. 8, 9, 10. 


his religion in other countries to the labours of his 
apostks, that he left it to them to make the neces- 
sary provision for the continued instruction of Christ- 
ians in all parts of the world, and that the Christian 
church received its form, not from any thing that is 
recorded to us as having been said by him, but from 
the orders given by his apostles in their discourses 
and their writings. It is in like manner conceivable 
that the apostles, who did not even travel over all 
the regions which have already received the Gospel, 
who saw only the beginnings of the Christian so- 
ciety, and who lived in times of persecution, might 
leave it to the wisdom of succeeding teachers to accom- 
modate the apostolical establishment to the more en- 
larged and more peaceful state of the Christian 
church. But as the apostles unquestionably followed 
the spirit of those instructions, which they received 
from Jesus when he spoke to them after his resur- 
rection " of the things pertaining to the kingdom of 
God," so every legitimate exercise of authority, in 
succeeding ages, is regulated by the words of Jesus 
and his apostles. As no body of men, acting in his 
name, has a right to declare that to be a doctrine of 
his which he did not teach, or that to be an institu- 
tion of his which he did not appoint, so he is to be 
considered, according to his promise, as " alway, 
even unto the end of the world," with those who 
bear office in his church, superintending the regula- 
tions which they frame, and the acts which they per- 
form in his name ; giving his sanction to those which 
are agreeable to the spirit of his religion ; but bear- 
ing his testimony against his ministers, when, for- 
getting the subjection which is implied in the origin 
of their power, they encroach upon the authority of 


him who is the supreme Teacher, Lawgiver, and 
Judge ; the Head of his body the church ; the King 
of his own kingdom. 

All Protestants hold that the infallibility, the do- 
minion over the faith of Christians, the power of 
dispensing with the laws of Christ, or of adding to 
Scripture by tradition, and many of the other claims 
advanced by the Bishop of Rome, and for many 
ages submitted to by a great part of Christendom, 
were a daring invasion of the sovereignty of Christ ; 
and one of the great principles of Protestantism is a 
rejection of all authority in the church that is not 
subordinate to him. Some Protestant churches have 
been accused of departing from this principle in their 
practice, by making additions to the laws of Christ, 
and by exercising, in his name, powers which he did 
not delegate to his office-bearers. If the charge should 
in some instances be true, it is only a proof that 
churches, calling themselves Protestant, often retain 
some of the corruptions of Popery. But when we 
apply the general principles to particular cases, it 
will probably appear that the charge arises merely 
from a difference of opinion amongst Protestants, 
with regard to the number and extent of those mat- 
ters, which the Lord Jesus has left subject to human 
regulations ; and that those who are accused of in- 
vading his prerogative are as incapable as their bre- 
thren of claiming any authority, Avhich they consider 
as opposite to his authority, or even as co-ordinate 
with it. 

There was a phrase used in England by authori- 
ty, at the beginning of the Reformation, which gave 
great offence to the more zealous adversaries of the 
church of Rome, and appeared to them inconsistent 


with tills third position. It was said in the edition 
of the thirty-nine articles, which was published in 
the reign of Edward, '* The king of England is su- 
preme head in earth, next under Christ, of the 
churches of England and Ireland." This was con- 
ceived to transfer to ihe king of England all that 
usurped power, with regard to the churches in his 
dominions, which the Pope had exercised with re- 
gard to the church universal ; and it was said that 
a title which the apostle seems to give exclusively to 
Christ, when he calls him " the head of the church," 
was not fitly applied to any mortal. In order to re- 
move these scruples, the phrase was omitted in the 
edition of the thirty-nine articles, published in the 
reign of Queen Elizabeth, v/hich is now the received 
and authentic edition ; and the queen, by a solemn 
declaration, explained the act of supremacy, which 
was past upon the abolition of papal jurisdiction, to 
mean no more than '• that under God she had the 
sovereignty and rule over all manner of persons 
born within her realm, either ecclesiastical or tem- 
poral ; so as no other foreign power shall or ought 
to have any superiority over them." The confession 
of faith of the church of Scotland, having been com- 
posed at a season, when the circumstances of the 
times were understood to call for a testimony against 
the revival of any claims, which might be abused as 
an engine of spiritual tyranny, declares, chap. xxv. 
that " there is no other head of the church but the 
Lord Jesus Christ ; nor can the Pope of Rome, in 
any sense, be head thereof." This clause in our 
Confession of Faith leads us, upon solemn occasions, 
to use a phrase, which, I believe, is seldom used in 
England, " The Lord Jesus, the king and head of 


Jiis church." But the use of this phrase does not 
constitute any mark of difference in opinion between 
the two churches, with regard to the third position. 
For both acknowledge the sovereign authority of 
the Lord Jesus, to which all other authority in the 
church is subordinate ; and were we to apply this 
general principle to particular cases, we should find 
that the two churches diifer less in the application, 
than superficial observers or hot disputants are will- 
ing to allow. 

4. The spiritual power implied in church govern- 
ment is given " for edification and not for destruc- 
tion." I employ this phrase, because it is used by 
the apostle Paul, 2 Cor. x. 8, and xiii. 10, in rela- 
tion to his authority, sig or/iodcij^riv, '/Mj ouz SIC %a&aic>i()i]i vfjjuv. 

It is equally applicable to the authority of the of- 
fice-bearers of the church in every age ; and it ex- 
presses most significantly what I mean to include 
under this fourth position. 

Those who entertain just views of civil govern- 
ment consider it as instituted by God for the good 
of the subjects. It is not for the sake of one, or of 
a few, to gratify their ambition, and to minister to 
their pleasure, that others are made inferior to them 
in rank, subject in many respects to their command, 
and dependent upon their protection. But all the 
privileges, and honours, and powers which distin- 
guish individuals, are conferred upon them for the 
sake of the multitude, that by these distinctions they 
may be the more proper and successful instruments 
of communicating to those who are undistinguished 
the blessings of good government. The spirit of en- 
larged benevolence, which forms the character of the 
Gospel, gives us perfect assurance, that the church 


government created by that religion has the like im- 
partial destination. The great prophet, who " came 
not to be ministered unto but to minister," " the 
shepherd and bishop of souls," who came " to seek 
and to save that which was lost," taught his apostles 
to do as he had done ; and they, instructed by his 
discourse, and guided by his example, spoke and 
acted as the servants of those, over whom they ex- 
ercised the authority that was committed to them. 
" Not for that we have dominion over your faith, 
but are helpers of your joy. We preach not our- 
selves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves 
your servants for Jesus' sake." ^" " All things are 
yours, whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas. Who 
is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom 
ye believed, as the Lord gave to every man ?"f Paul 
reminds the servant of the Lord, to whom was com- 
mitted the care of the church, that " he must be 
gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meek- 
ness instructing those who oppose themselves, if 
God peradventure will give them repentance to the 
acknowledging of the truth ;" ± and Peter exhorts 
the elders, who had the oversight of the flock, to be- 
have " not as lords over God's heritage, but as en- 
samples to the flock." II 

It is manifest, then, that the government, which 
Christ had established in his church, was not intend- 
ed by him to create a separate interest in the Christ- 
ian society, by aggrandizing a particular order of 
men, and for their sake placing all others in a state 
of humiliating subjection. It is one branch of the 

* 2 Cor. j. 24 ; iv. 5. t 1 Cor. iii. 5, 21, 22. 

t 2 Tim. ii. 24-, 2o. \\ 1 Peter v. 1, 2, 3. 


provision which is made in the Gospel for propagat- 
ing and maintaining the truth, for restraining vice, 
for assisting Christians in the discharge of their du- 
ty, and for promoting the universal practice of vir- 
tue ; and when ^^'e consider the power which church 
government implies, as thus instrumental in carry- 
ing forward the great cause for which Christ died, 
we are taught to expect in the operation of this in- 
strument the same regard to the reasonable nature 
of man, and the same tender consideration of every 
circumstance essential to his comfort, which appear 
in the other institutions of the Gospel. The exer- 
cise of a power which is purely spiritual cannot in- 
deed affect the lives or the outward estate of Christ- 
ians. But men have other rights as sacred as those 
which respect their persons or their properties. 
There is liberty of thought, the right which every 
man has of exercising the powers of his mind upon 
any subject, from which he hopes to derive pleasure 
or improvement. There is the right of private 
judgment, which necessarily results from liberty of 
thought, the right which every man has of forming 
his own opinions, and of determining for himself 
what he ought to do. He may form the opinion 
and the determination hastily or upon false grovmds ; 
but he is not a rational agent, if he conceives it to 
be his duty implicitly to allow another to form them 
for them. There is liberty of conscience, that branch 
of the right of private judgment which respects our 
duty to God ; the right which every man has of 
judging what God requires of him, and of resisting 
any attempt to teach for doctrines the command- 
ments of men, or to impose obedience to regulations 
VOL. III. 2 I 


merely human, as a matter of conscience towards 

As these rights belong to the nature of a moral 
and accountable creature, any power which could 
claim the privilege of violating them would be given 
not for edification, but for destruction. It would 
destroy, not perhaps the person, but the character 
of the being over whom it was exercised ; it would 
degrade his mind ; and it is so diametrically oppo- 
site to the general conduct of the Almighty towards 
his reasonable creatures, to the style of argument 
by which Jesus always called forth into exercise the 
understandings of those who heard him, and to all 
the other parts of the provision which he has made 
for enlarging and improving the minds of his disci- 
ples, that this cannot possibly be the description of 
any power instituted by him. 

It was not necessary to dwell long upon the proof 
of the third and fourth positions ; because, after the 
meaning of the terms is fairly stated, the truth of 
them appears hardly controvertible. But it was 
necessary to enumerate them thus distinctly, because 
they are the foundation of my fifth general position, 
which assumes the third and fourth as proven, and 
applies them to a variety of subjects. 

5. The power implied in church government is 
limited by the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus, 
and the liberties of his disciples, both as to the ob- 
jects which it embraces, and as to the manner in 
which it is exercised. 

It professes to maintain the credit of religion, by 
preserving the truth uncorrupted, and by watching 
over the conduct of Christians ; and it professes to 
minister to the edification of individuals, by afford- 


ing them various assistance in following after right- 
eousness, and by employing various means to re- 
claim them from error and vice. These objects are 
in themselves excellent ; but it is not competent for 
church government to take every conceivable method 
of accomplishing them, because a spiritual power 
subordinate to the Lord Jesus, and not given for 
destruction, is restrained by these characters from 
doing many things, which, at particular times, may 
appear expedient. No exercise of any power can 
be legitimate, which is in direct opposition to the 
nature of that power ; and the evils arising from 
admitting a contradiction between the general cha- 
racter of the power, and a particular exertion of it, 
will, in the result, infinitely overbalance any local 
or temporary advantage, which might be purchased 
by an exercise of the pov/er that is illegitimate. 

In applying the limits suggested by the third and 
fourth positions, to the power implied in church go- 
vernment, the easiest and safest method is to follow 
an established distribution. The subject has been 
so fully canvassed since the Reformation, that w^e 
may be assured none of the objects which require to 
be considered under the fifth position were omitted 
by the many able men, who, with much zeal, parti- 
cularly in the course of the 17th century, combated 
one another upon the various questions to which it 
has given birth. Taking, therefore, the distribution 
which is found in the ordinary systems, I shall di- 
vide church power into three parts, which, for the 
sake of memory, are expressed by three single words ; 
the jyotestas hoyiManxn, biara-/.rr/.Yi^ and diax^iriKrj. The first 
respects doyfiarc/., doctrines or articles of faith ; the 


second respects diara^sig, ecclesiastical canons or con- 
stitutions ; the third respects discipline, or the exer- 
cise of judgment in inflicting or removing censures. 
To each of these three I shall apply the limits 
and regulations suggested by the third and fourth 

rOTESTAS Aoy//am?j. 485 


POTESTAS Aoy^aTinr,^ 

1. The potestas boy (xanxn is limited and regulated by 
the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus, and the 
liberties of his disciples. 

The church of Rome, in the progress of that in- 
fluence which she acquired over the Christian world, 
laid down the following positions, which were receiv- 
ed as true by the members of her communion : — That 
the authority of Scripture, its right to the faith and 
obedience of Christians, depends entirely upon the tes- 
timony of the church : that besides the written word, 
consisting of the books which Christians receive in 
consequence of the judgment of the church, there is 
also an unwritten word, of which the church are the 
keepers : that it does not appear to have been intend- 
ed that the Scriptures should contain a complete rule 
of faith and manners ; but that this defect, which 
arose imavoidably from their having been written 
by different authors upon particular occasions, is 
fully remedied by those traditions, which, although 
not written in any apostolical book, have been safely 
conveyed down through the church from the days of 
the apostles : that these traditions, pertaining either 
to faith or to morals, are to be received with the 
same piety and reverence as the Scriptures : and 

486 POTESTAS ^oyiJMTiKn. 

that the church, by being in possession of this un- 
written word, is qualified in its teaching to supply 
the imperfection of the written word : that the 
Scriptures, being in many places obscure, it is im- 
possible for the people, by the exercise of their own 
faculties, to derive from thence the knowledge of all 
things necessary to salvation ; and that their attempt- 
ing to form opinions for themselves out of the Scrip- 
tures, while it cannot lead them certainly to the 
truth, may produce a multiplicity of dangerous er- 
rors, and much bitter contention : that, to avoid these 
evils, it is, in general, expedient to debar the people 
from the free use of the Scriptures, or to grant it 
only to those whom their teachers judge the least 
likely to abuse that privilege : that the church, being 
assisted by the Spirit of God in the search of the 
Scriptures, having the promise of the presence of 
Jesus to the end of the world, and having possession 
of the unwritten word as a commentary upon the 
written, is the only safe interpreter of Scripture, and 
the supreme judge, by whose definitive sentence all 
controversies with regard to the meaning of partis- 
cular passages, or the general doctrine of Scrip- 
ture, must be determined : that it is the duty of 
Christians to acquiesce in this infallible deter- 
mination ; and that, although they do not un- 
derstand the grounds upon which it rests, or al- 
though other doctrines than those which the church 
declares to he true appear to their minds agreeable 
to Scripture, it is presumption and impiety, a breach 
of that reverence which they owe to the institution 
of Christ, and a sin for which they deserve everlast- 
ing punishment, to oppose their own private judg- 
ment, which cannot of itself attain the truth, and 

POTESTAS AoyiiariKn. 48? 

which may depart very far from it, to the decision 
of the church which cannot err : that the faith which 
becomes the dutiful subjects of the kingdom of Christ, 
and by which they are saved, is an entire submis- 
sion of the understanding to the decisions of the 
church ; a faith which does not include a knowledge 
of the things believed, which is more fitly defined 
by ignorance, and which supposes nothing more than 
an implicit and cordial acquiescence in all that is 
taught by the church. 

The foregoing positions, or doctrines of the church 
of Rome, are combated in different parts of the or- 
dinary systems. I have brought them together in 
one view, in order to give a full account of the ex- 
tent of the potesfas doyf/^un-KYi, as claimed by that church. 
And I need not stop to expose the monstrous nature 
of a claim, which constitutes the great body of 
Christians mere machines ; which invades the pre- 
rogative, and usurps the office and the honours of 
the great Prophet, whom it is the duty of Christians 
to hear ; and which, by ascribing to the church an 
infallibility which is nowhere promised, and which 
is inconsistent with the weakness of humanity, has 
produced in that church errors, contradictions, and 
absurdities, which appear to every rational inquirer 
most disgraceful and pernicious to those by whom 
they are held. 

To so monstrous a claim all Protestants agree in 
opposing this principle, that the Scriptures are the 
only rule of faith. This principle they understand 
to include the following positions ; — The authority 
of the books of the New Testament does not depend 
upon the judgment of the church. The history of 
what we call the canon of the New Testament may 

188 PO TEST AS £^oy[j.aTr/.n. 

be thus stated. While many books, which claimed 
to be written by divine inspiration, were rejected in 
early times, those Avhich we now receive were de- 
clared to be canonical, because they had been con- 
veyed down from the days of the apostles, with sa- 
tisfying evidence of their authority. This evidence, 
as laid before those who fixed the canon of the New 
Testament, consisted of internal marks of authenti- 
city, of which a scholar in every age is equally qua- 
lified to judge, of the consent of the Christian world, 
of the testimony of adversaries to the Christian faith, 
and of many collateral circumstances, which must 
liave been better known to them than to us, who live 
at such a distance from the date of the books. But 
had any early council presumed to contradict the 
amount of this evidence, by rejecting a book which 
was authentic, or admitting one which was spurious, 
the voice of the Christian world would have risen 
against so daring a decision ; and the remains of 
Christian antiquity which have reached our days, 
would have enabled us to disregard it. In judging 
then, of the authenticity of the books of the New 
Testament, we pay no further regard to the decision 
of the church, than as it constitutes a part of that 
tradition which must be the voucher of every book 
written in a remote age ; and having satisfied our- 
selves in the only rational manner' — in the same 
manner as we do with regard to all other ancient 
books — that the books of the New Testament were 
written by the persons whose names they bear, we 
learn from the evidence of the divine mission of 
Jesus, and from the nature of the commission given 
to his apostles, of both which we are qualified to 

rOTESTAS ^oyiJ.rjL7iy.r,. 489 

judge, the entire respect and credit which are due 
to every thing contained in the books. 

Now, this credit which is due to the books, not 
upon account of the testimony of the church, but 
upon their own account, includes a belief of their 
sufficiency and their perfection. It does not admit 
of what the church of Rome calls tradition, or an 
vm written word, being put upon a level with them. 
It implies, that all things necessary to salvation are 
contained in the books themselves ; that the attain- 
ment of the knowledge of these things is not attend- 
ed with difficulties, so insuperable to an individual 
as to render the judgment of the church indispensa- 
bly necessary ; that every person who has the use 
of reason may, by a proper exercise of his rational 
powers, and by availing himself of the opportunities 
within his reach, satisfy his mind what is the doc- 
trine of Scripture, and understand that doctrine as 
far as it is necessary he should understand it ; and 
consequently, that no individual Christian is requir- 
ed to exercise an implicit faith, of which he can give 
no other account than that it ixsts upon the autho- 
rity of the church ; but that as it is contrary to the 
laws of his nature to believe what appears to him 
absurd, so it is a duty, required of him by his di- 
vine teacher, to " search the Scriptures," so as to 
judge for himself, that what he professes to believe 
is therein contained, and thus to be able to give a 
reason of his faith and hope. 

By stating the foregoing positions, I have endea- 
voured to unfold that principle, which, being cha- 
racteristical of Protestantism, is avowed by all who 
have departed from the errors of the church of Rome. 
But it is held under different modifications ; and 

490 POTEST AS AoyiJLOLTuri. 

those who agree in receiving the Scriptures as a suf- 
ficient rule of faith, and as the only authoritative 
rule, do not agree concerning the power reserved to 
the church as to the doctrines of religion. 

TJie followers of Socinus, who were among the 
earliest Reformers, were led, by the general princi- 
ples of their system, to an extreme solicitude in guard- 
ing against the abuses of ecclesiastical authority ; 
and having, upon many points, departed very far 
from the received opinions of Christians, they were 
obliged, in self defence, to lay down such a plan of 
church government, as did not admit that the church 
at any time possessed the right of intermeddling in 
articles of faith. The Socinians hold, that as the 
Scriptures are the rule of faith, the essential articles 
of faith are so few, so simple, and so easily gather- 
ed out of clear explicit passages, that it is impossi- 
ble for any man who has the exercise of his reason 
to miss them ; that all the mistakes and differences 
of opinion amongst those who search the Scriptures 
respect points which are not essential, and concern- 
ing which it is both vain and hurtful to try to esta- 
blish an uniformity of opinion ; that it is in all cases 
a sufficient declaration of Christian faith to say that 
we believe the Scriptures ; that no harm can arise 
from allowing every man to interpret Scripture as 
he pleases ; and that, as Scripture may be sufficient- 
ly understood for the purposes of salvation, without 
any foreign assistance, all creeds and confessions of 
faith, composed and prescribed by human authority, 
are an encroachment upon the prerogative of the su- 
preme teacher, an invasion of the right of private 
judgment, and a pernicious attempt to substitute the 
commandments of men in place of the doctrine of God. 

rOTESTAS Ao^/xar/x):. 41jl 

According to this plan, there is left to the church 
and its ministers, in their teaching, merely the office 
of exhortation. Over the doctrines, which are the 
principles upon which the exhortation proceeds, it is 
conceived to be incompetent that they should have 
any control ; and both the proceedings of ecclesias- 
tical assemblies, and the ministrations of private 
teachers, are understood to depart from their proper 
sphere, and to be very much misemployed, when, 
instead of confining. themselves to recommendations 
of the practice of virtue, they intermeddle with 
points of doctrine, all of which are either so plain, 
that they cannot be illustrated, or so unimportant, 
that every one may be allowed, according to an an- 
cient phrase which is often used, to abound in his 
own sense. 

To most Protestant churches this plan appears 
very defective ; and when I state the following 
views, you will perceive how far it falls short of the 
purposes, 'for which a church seems to have been es- 
tablished by Christ. 

The books of the New Testament are written in 
a language which is now understood only by the 
learned. Yet, in that language, it was intended they 
should be sent over the world to be the rule of faith 
to all Christians. However plain, therefore, these 
books might be to the nations who spoke that lan- 
guage, the great body of the people in all other coun- 
tries stand in need of an interpreter. They are 
ignorant of the meaning of single words and phrases. 
If different translations are offered, they do not know 
which is most correct ; and consequently they must 
remain in doubt and suspense, unless there is some 
human authority upon which they can rest. 

49'2 POTESTAS ^^yiharar,. 

But further, after the meaning of single words 
and phrases is analysed, there still remain in all an- 
cient books many passages which cannot be under- 
stood without a knowledge of local customs ; of 
points in chronology, geography, and history; of 
figures of speech ; and of that peculiar character 
which every language derives from the manners and 
the science of those by whom it is spoken. It is 
impossible that the great body of the people in any 
country can make the necessary progress in so large 
and multifarious a branch of study ; so that here 
also, as well as in the meaning of single words and 
phrases, they must rest upon the authority of others. 
Our Lord has not left these wants of his disciples to 
be supplied in a casual m.anner, by any person more 
learned than themselves whom they chance to meet. 
But having provided, in the constitution of his reli- 
gion, a standing method of instruction, he directs all, 
who in searching the Scriptures feel their own de- 
ficiencies, to have recourse to the persons who are 
set over them in the Lord. When the apostles went 
forth to make disciples of all nations, they were en- 
abled, by the gift of tongues, to speak so as to be 
understood by all who heard them. Now that the 
written word of the apostles is transmitted to future 
ages in a particular language, the learning of the 
Christian teachers may render that written word as 
intelligible to the people, as if they themselves un- 
derstood the original language ; and since the Christ- 
ian teachers appeared to us formerly, as intended by 
Christ to constitute a society co-operating for the 
same great purpose, it is natural to expect that, in- 
stead of a private rendering of the Scriptures by 
every individual teacher, all who minister to persons 

POTESTAS AoyimrrAYi. 493 

speaking the same language, will join in preparing 
or adopting a common translation. This translation, 
recommended by the concurrent authority of the body 
of teachers, will give the people all the assurance which 
the nature of the case admits, or which it requires, 
that the book which they read is the same in sense 
with that which was written by the apostles ; and 
this book, receiving in the ministrations of the indi- 
vidual teachers those elucidations, which their know- 
ledge of antiquity, and the fruit of their various 
studies qualify them to give, will be " profitable" to 
all " for instruction in righteousness." 

It appears, then, to be unquestionable, that the 
succession of teachers in the Christian church were 
intended to be interpreters and expounders of the sa- 
cred books ; and that one part of the office assigned 
them is, to afford the disciples of Christ that assistance 
in learning the truth therein contained, of which, from 
the nature of the books, the language in which they 
were written, and the customs of the persons addressed 
in them, the great body of the people in every country 
stand much in need. But there is a farther part of 
their office, in relation to the doctrines of religion, 
which a due attention to the subject does not suffer 
us to omit. When we recollect the language and 
the spirit of the directions given to Timothy and 
Titus, and when we hear Paul saying to Timothy, 
ii. 2, " The things that thou hast heard of me, the 
same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able 
to teach others also," we are led to consider the suc- 
cession of Christian teachers as intended to be the 
guardians of that truth which may be learned from 
the Scriptures ; and the church, the great society com- 
posed of those teachers, is presented to om* view un- , 

494 POTESTAS \(>y<jM7iY.ri. 

der the idea of the keepers of a sacred deposit, over 
which they are appointed to Watch. It is by the il- 
lustration of this idea that we show the imperfection 
of what I stated as the Socinian plan. 

The foundation of the character of a disciple of 
Christ is laid in the acknowledgment of a system of 
divine truth. That system may be learned by search- 
ing the Scriptures. But our Lord and his apostles 
do not lead us to suppose, that it is learned by every 
person into whose hands the Scriptures are put, or 
who professes to expound them. Our Lord gives 
notice of false prophets, who should come to his dis- 
ciples in sheep's clothing, while inwardly they were 
ravening wolves.* The apostles saw the fulfilment 
of this prediction ; and their Epistles abound with 
complaints of false teachers, men " who corrupted 
the word of God ; who had erred concerning the 
truth ; who subverted whole houses, teaching things 
which they ought not ; who brought in damnable 
heresies ; who were moved not by the spirit of truths 
but by the spirit of error ; men unlearned and un- 
stable, who wrested the Scriptures to their own de- 
struction."! The apostles mention many particular 
errors which had arisen in their days ; they combat 
them with zeal ; they call upon Christians to " con- 
tend earnestly for the faith which was once deliver- 
ed to the saints," and to " beware lest any man 
spoil them through philosophy and vain deceit, after 
the tradition of men ;" a!id they represent it as one 
of the purposes for which Christ gave prophets, and 
apostles, and evangelists, ?', e. for which he establish- 

* Matt. vii. 15. 

t 2 Cor. ii. 17 ; 2 Tim. ii. 18; Titus i. 11 ; 2 Pet. ii. 1 ; 
iii. iC ; 1 John iv. 6. 

POTESTAS A(jy(m7iy.ri. 495 

ed a church, Eph. iv. 13, that Christians might " be 
no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about 
-ram aviiMw ttj; dtdotax-aX/ag, with every wind of doctrine, by 
the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby 
they lie in wait to deceive." In like manner the 
apostle thus writes to the Hebrews, xiii. 7, 8, 9, 
" Remember them which have the rule over you, 
who have spoken to you the v/ord of God ; whose 
fait?i follow, considering the end of their conversa- 
tion, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and 
for ever. Be not carried about with divers and 
strange doctrines." These verses, Vv^hen taken in 
connexion, present this whole sense, that as the 
doctrine of Christ, like himself, is unchangeable, his 
disciples, instead of hastily adopting the various 
opinions which may happen to be in circulation^ 
should continue in the truth which they receive from 
the spiritual teachers, who are set over them in the 
Lord, imitating their faith. In order to qualify the 
Christian teachers to perform the important service 
implied in these passages, the apostle exhorts Timo- 
thy, and through him, every succeeding minister of 
the Gospel, to " hold fast the form of sound words." 
He excites him to the assiduous exercise of his ta- 
lents in counteracting the restless and insidious at- 
tempts of seducers ; and he introduces the following 
words, Titus i. 9, 10, 11, into the description of what 
a bishop or minister ought to be, " Holding fast the 
faithful word, as he hath been taught, that he may 
be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to 
convince the gainsayers. For there are many un- 
ruly and vain talkers and deceivers, whose mouths 
must be stopped." These directions of the apostle 
apply by parity of reason to the heresies, which he 

496 POTESTAS L(,yiJM7t)iYi' 

gives notice were to arise in latter times, as well as 
to those which he himself combated. They impose 
a duty upon the ministers of religion, and conse- 
quently they create a corresponding duty in the 
people to whom they minister ; in other words, 
while they invest the ministers of religion with 
some kind of authority in relation to its doctrines, 
they require a degree of reverence for every lawful 
exercise of that authority. They teach clearly that 
an acknowledgment of the truth of Scripture is not 
a sufficient security for soundness of faith, because 
they state a perversion of Scripture by those who 
have received it, as not only a possible case, but as a 
case Avhich then actually existed ; and consequently 
they imply that it is lawful for the ministers of reli- 
gion to employ some additional guard to that " form 
of sound words," which they are required to hold 
fast and to defend. 

Two striking instances of a perversion of Scrip- 
ture in the days of the apostles are mentioned, the 
one by Paul, the other by John. In his Epistles to 
Timothy, Paul speaks of Hymeneus and Philetus, 
who " concerning the truth had erred, saying that 
the resurrection is past already, and overthrew the 
faith of some ;" i, e, they did not deny that the 
Scriptures speak of a resurrection, but by an allego- 
rical interpretation, they resolved all the declarations 
of the future resurrection of the body into a figura- 
tive expression of the present renovation of the heart 
and life, which is produced in Christians by the 
grace of the Gospel. John, in his first and second 
Epistles, speaks of deceivers, whom he calls anti- 
christ, persons moved by a spirit in opposition to 
Christ, " v/ho confessed not that Jesus Christ is 

POTESTAS ^uyixari'ArYi. 497 

dome ill the flesh." They did not deny that the 
Scriptures speak of his manifestation, but they 
thought that the most rational interpretation of the 
words of Scripture is found by considering the body 
of Christ as a phantasm, which answered the pur- 
pose of his holding communication with men, with- 
out subjecting the Son of God to that degradation, 
and his religion to the many difficulties, which ap- 
peared to them to arise from his being allied with a 
material substance. Now both these kinds of de- 
ceivers, because they did not hold the truth of Scrip- 
ture, although they spoke the words of Scripture, 
were opposed by the apostles, who earnestly warned 
the Christians to beware of their doctrine. In like 
manner, therefore, when in future ages some arose 
who said that Jesus is the Son of God, but who gave 
such an interpretation of that phrase, as rendered it 
consistent with the opinion which they avowed, that 
Jesus was a mere man ; Avhen others spoke in the 
language of Scripture concerning the Spirit, but con- 
sidering that language as meaning nothing more than 
the influence of God, published as a part of their 
creed that the Holy Ghost is not a divine person ; 
when others interpreted all the variety of expres- 
s-ions, in which Jesus is said to have died for sin, as 
meaning only that our sin was the occasion of his 
death, and that his death tended to take away sin, 
but not as conveying any idea of atonement ; when 
such opinions arose, and were held, and defended, 
and propagated by men who professed to venerate 
the Scriptures, those Christian teachers who consi- 
dered the divinity of our Saviour, the personality of 
the Spirit, and the doctrine of atonement, to be im- 
portant branches of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, 

VOL. III. 2 K 

498 POTESTAS Ao^aar/x'/j. 

were not only ^va^ranted, but v/ere called to combat 
these opinions, to guard " the form of sound words'* 
from corruption, and to warn the Christians com- 
mitted to their charge against being led aside by 
these perversions of Scripture. It was not enough 
to exhort Christians to believe what the Scriptures 
declared upon these points ; for those who were ac- 
cused of perverting the Scriptures, professed this be- 
lief. It was not possible to have recourse to any 
such infallible authority as that which the apostles 
exerted, when they branded, as fundamental errors, 
the doctrines of Hymeneus and other deceivers, who 
arose in their days. There is clear evidence that 
Jesus did not intend any such infallible authority 
should continue to exist in his church ; yet in all 
ages the Scriptures have been liable to perversion ; 
in all ages it appears to have been part of the charge 
committed to the Christian teachers to maintain and 
defend the truth ; and it is left to them to devise 
the most prudent and effectual methods of fulfilling 
that duty. 

The mode of fulfilling this duty, to which the 
Christian teachers very early had recourse, was of 
the following kind. When they apprehended a dan- 
ger of the propagation of false opinions concerning 
an important article of Christian faith, they assem- 
bled in larger or smaller numbers, from more or 
fewer districts, according to circumstances. In these 
assemblies, which are known by the name of coun- 
cils, and which gradually assumed the forms essen- 
tial to the orderly transaction of business in a great 
meeting, the controverted points were canvassed; 
and the opinion, which appeared to the council agree- 
able to Scripture, was declared in words so contriv- 

P0TE8TAS AoyiMaTixn- 499 

eel, as to form their explicit testimony against the 
opinions which they accounted erroneous. It is not 
impossible that this method of deciding controver- 
sies was suggested to the early Christians by the 
practice of the States of ancient Greece, who held 
councils upon important occasions. But it is of 
more importance to observe that the method appears 
to be agreeable both to the nature of the case and 
to Scripture. It is agreeable to the nature of the 
case. For the consent of a number of teachers in 
any doctrine was the best security of their having 
attained the truth, which their fallibility admitted ; 
and the unequivocal declaration of that consent was 
the most likely way of conciliating respect for their 
opinion, and of giving it that authority v/ith the 
people, which might render it a preservative against 
error. This method, in itself natural and expedient, 
may be said to be agreeable to Scripture, and even 
to have received a sanction from the practice of the 
apostles. One of the earliest disputes in the Christ- 
ian church respected the necessity of circumcision. 
Paul and Barnabas, after having had no small dis- 
putation in the regions where they laboured, went 
up to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders 
about this question. The apostles and elders, hav- 
ing met to consider the matter, and canvassed it at 
length, came to a definitive sentence, which they 
published in an epistle to the churches ; and Paul^ 
upon his return to the region which he had left, as 
he went through the cities. Acts xvi. 4, 5, " deliver- 
ed them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained 
of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem ; 
and so were the churches established in the faith." 

It was most natural for the Christian teachers in 
future ages to consider this apostolical council, as a 

500 POTESTAS Ao7,v.aT/x>j. 

direction and a warrant with regard to the most ex- 
pedient method of terminating the controversies 
which arose in their time. Accordingly, when the 
Arian opinions were propagated with zeal and suc- 
cess in the beginning of the fourth century, a coun- 
cil, which is known by the name of the first general 
council, was held at Nice under the authority of the 
Roman Emperor, then become a Christian, and de- 
clared in the creed, called the Nicene creed, the di- 
vinity and consubstantiality of the Son. A second 
council, held at Constantinople in the end of that 
century, declared, in opposition to the errors of Ma- 
cedonius, the divinity and personality of the Holy 
Ghost ; and two councils, held, the one at Ephesus 
and the other at Chalcedon, about the middle of the 
fifth century, testified their disapprobation of the 
systems taught by Nestorius and Eutyches, and de- 
clared what continues to be the received opinion in 
most Christian churches, concerning the union of the 
divine and human nature of our Saviour. 

These four general councils are mentioned with 
honour in ecclesiastical history, and are spoken of by 
most Christian writers as entitled to a degree of re- 
spect, which is not due to any succeeding council. 
Not that they were, according to the literal sense of 
the word, general councils, L e. assemblies consisting 
of deputies from all parts of Christendom. The 
difficulties which must occur to every person, who 
considers what such a meeting requires, are of such 
a kind, that it has never taken place in fact ; and- 
were it practicable, it would not derive from the 
number or the universality of the representation an 
infallible security against error. Neither is the pe- 
culiar respect paid to these councils founded on a be- 

POTEST AS AoyiJi.a^r/Krt. 501 

lief, that every part of their proceedings was con- 
ducted in an unexceptionable manner. There might 
be much faction and altercation, weakness in some 
of the members, and political views in others. But 
they are respected, because the opinions which they 
declared appear to the great part of the Christian 
world to be founded in Scripture. We receive the 
opinions not for the sake of the declaration of the 
councils ; but we honour the councils for declaring 
opinions which we believe to be true ; and we testi- 
fy this honour by adopting, in our profession of those 
opinions, the significant phrases by which these early 
councils discriminated the truth from the errors 
with which it had been blended. Many of the suc- 
ceeding councils declared what we believe to be false; 
and the council of Trent, held in the thirteenth cen- 
tury, which the Christian world had loudly demand- 
ed as the most effectual method of reforming the 
errors of the church of Rome, was so managed by 
the influence and artifice of the Pope, that it lent its 
authority to the establishment of those very errors. 
When the Protestants of Germany judged it ne- 
cessary for them to leave a church, w^hose corruptions 
they could find no method of correcting, they deli- 
vered to the diet of the empire as their apology, what 
is called the confession of Augsburg ; Confessio An- 
gus tana ; and in every kingdom and state, which af- 
terwards left the communion of the church of Rome, 
an assembly of the teachers, held generally by the 
authority and direction of the state, compiled a con- 
fession of their faith, or a declaration of the truths 
which they believed to be contained in Scripture. 
These confessions, which differed from one another 
in some points, were, in general, so framed as tq 

50^2 POTESTAS AoyfMarrAr,. 

form a testimony against the errors of the church of 
Rome, without renouncing any of the truths which 
that church held ; the Protestants wishing to hold 
themselves forth to the world as Christians, who re-» 
tained the great doctrines of the Gospel unadulterat- 
ed by any of the heresies which had arisen, and who 
forsook only those corruptions in doctrine and prac- 
tice which a particular church had introduced. From, 
these early confessions arose, in process of time, with 
some variations, what are called the Thirty-nine 
Articles of the church of England, what we call the 
Confession of Faith of the church of Scotland, and 
the Symbols, Formularies, and Catechisms of other 
Protestant churches. 

When the opinions of Arminius were spreading in 
Holland about the beginning of the seventeenth cen-^ 
tury, a council or synod was summoned at Dort by 
the authority of the States-General ; and deputies 
were invited to attend from the neighbouring prin- 
cipalities, and from the two churches of Great Bri- 
tain. This council, which is known by the name of 
Synodus Dordracena, after sitting many months, con- 
demned the tenets of Arminius, and published a de- 
claration of the Christian faith upon the controvert- 
ed points, for which some Protestant churches en- 
tertain a high respect, as it is agreeable to their opi^ 
nions, and which others regard with indifference, or 
hold in contemxpt. The result of the synod of Dort 
is a lesson to the Protestant church, that the expe- 
diency of general councils expired with the division 
of the Roman Empire ; that in the present situation 
of Christendom it is chimerical to think of obtain- 
ing by this method any greater uniformity of doc- 
trine, than already subsists amongst those who have 

POTEST AS Aoy/^ar/xr). 503 

left the communion of the church of Rome ; and that 
in every independent kingdom or state, the Christian 
teachers, supported by the civil authority, in the man- 
ner that is agreed upon, are fully competent, without 
waiting for the judgment of Christians in other coun- 
tries, to prepare such a general declaration of the 
Christian Faith, and such occasional preservatives 
against error, as may answer the purposes for which 
the church was invested with what we have called 

the potestas ^oy/xartKr}. 

The objection commonly made to confessions of 
faith is, that they are too particular; that a decla- 
ration of faith, which is meant to unite Christians, 
should comprehend only the fundamental doctrines 
of Christianity, without descending to those contro- 
verted points, and those niceties of doctrine, upon 
which men have differed ; and that it would in ge- 
neral be better that these confessions were express- 
ed in the language of Scripture, than in the terms of 
human science. 

The persons most ready to bring forward this ob- 
jection are those whose system excludes some of the 
doctrines which the great body of Protestants agree 
in receiving. In their manner of stating the objec- 
tion, they are careful toconceal their disbelief of j)ar- 
ticular doctrines, under a zeal for liberty of con- 
science, and the right of private judgment ; and in- 
stead of affirming that a confession declares what is 
false, they choose rather to say, that by the particu- 
larity with which it states the received opinion, it 
abridges and invades that freedom in every thing 
that concerns religion, which Christians derive fx'om 
the spirit of the Gospel. 

The subject has, of lale, received much discussion 

504f POTESTAS Ao/.oiamjj. 

in England. The objection is stated with ability 
and eloquence in a book entitled the Confessional ; 
and when you turn your attention to this matter, 
you will easily become acquainted with the answers 
and replies that have been published. I do not mean 
to enter into any detail, but simply to lead your 
thoughts to that answer to the objection, which may 
be deduced from the principles that have been stated. 

It is easy to ask that only fundamental articles 
should be introduced into confessions ; but it is not 
easy to say what articles are fundamental. There 
is no enumeration of them in Scripture ; and no at- 
tempt that has ever been made to enumerate them 
has given universal satisfaction. The very point 
upon which different sects divide is, that some ac- 
count articles fundamental, which to others appear 
unimportant ; and that even things, which all admit 
to be fundamental, are held by some with such limi- 
tations, as appear to others very much to enervate 
their meaning. It is certainly not desirable that 
confessions should descend to minute controversies ; 
and perhaps all of them might be abridged. But the 
very purpose for which they are composed, being to 
guard against error, it is plain that they become nu- 
gatory, if they deliver the truths of religion in those 
words of Scripture which had been perverted, or in 
terms so general as to include both the error and the 

In judging how far the particularity of confessions 
invades^ the right of private judgment, it is necessary 
to attend to an essential distinction between the con- 
dition of teachers and that of the people. The con- 
fession, in which any number of teachers unite, is 
that " form of sound words," which they think they. 

POTESTAS AoyfiarrAri' ^05 

find in Scripture, and winch they consider it as their 
duty to *' hold fast." Every teacher, who belongs 
to the community, is of course supposed to assent to 
the truths contained in their confession ; and the 
community of teachers ought not to admit any per- 
son to take part of their ministry, unless by his sub- 
scribing the confession, or declaring his sentiments 
in some other vv'-ay, they know that he entertains the 
opinions which are there published. Without some 
such I'equisition, the confession of the community, 
and the ministrations of the individual teachers, 
might be in opposition to one another. Many of 
them, holding opinions that were condemned in the 
confession, and animated with zeal for the propaga- 
tion of those opinions, might instil into the minds 
of the people the very errors against which it was 
the purpose of the confession to guard them ; and 
thus the negligence of the community would become 
the instrument of exposing the people to be " carried 
about with divers and strange doctrines," of inflam- 
ing their breasts with that animosity which gene- 
rally attends religious disputes, and of bringing up- 
on them those evils from which they would have 
been preserved, if there had been an uniformity 
in the doctrine of their teachers. If, then, the 
church in general, and any division of the church, 
consisting of the office-bearers of a particular dis- 
trict, united in a society, have a right to declare 
their opinion concerning controverted points, and if 
it is part of the duty of their office by a declaration 
of this opinion to oppose the propagation of error, 
it follows, by consequence, from this right and this 
duty, that they are entitled to require from every 
person, to whom they convey the powers implied in 

506 POTESTAS Aoyimnn'/i^ 

ordination, a declaration of his assent to their opin- 
ions. This is merely prescribing the terms of ad- 
mission to a particular office ; it is employing the 
nature of the office to regulate the qualifications ; 
and it is no infringement of the right of private 
judgment, because if any person does not possess 
the qualifications, or does not choose to comply with 
the terms, he has only to turn his attention to some 
other office. For if, instead of becoming a teacher, 
he prefers to continue one of the people in the Christ- 
ian society, he is under no obligation to declare his 
assent to the confession, which has been published 
by the teachers as the declaration of their faith, and 
the directory of their teaching. How far heretics 
are liable to censure, will be considered, when we 
speak of the judicial power of the church. What I 
am now stating is this essential distinction between 
the teachers and the people in a Christian society, 
that the judgment of the body of the people is not 
necessarily concluded under the judgment of the of- 
fice-bearers ; in other words, that the i^otestas boyiMa. 
rtzYi, which we conceive to be inherent in the nature 
of the church, does not imply a right of imposing 
upon the consciences of Christians the belief of that 
which the church has determined to be true. 

From this account of the potestas boyiMrmri, as ex- 
ercised by Protestants, it appears to be neither in- 
consistent with the supremacy of Christ, nor destruc- 
tive of the liberties of Christians. It is not inconsist- 
ent with the supremacy of Christ ; because it is 
purely ministerial, professing to interpret the words 
of Christ and his apostles ; proving out of them all 
the assertions which it publishes ; directing to them 
as the infallible standard of truth ; and warning 

Christians against listening to any other doctrine 
than that which Christ commanded to be taught. 
The confessions of Protest^mt churches claim to be 
true, not in respect of the authority by which they 
are composed, but in respect of their conformity to 
the words of Scripture ; and therefore, instead of in- 
vading, they assert the prerogative of the Supreme 
Teacher. Nor is it inconsistent with the liberties 
of Christians. When Christian teachers either give 
a general declaration of the faith, or bear testimony 
occasionally against particular errors, a respect is 
certainly due to the judgment of men invested with 
an office in the church, and exercising this office for 
a purpose which is declared in Scripture to be im- 
portant. But this respect does not imply a sub- 
mission of the understanding. It is acknowledged 
that the decision, proceeding from fallible men, may 
be erroneous ; and that it is the duty of Christians 
to " judge of themselves what is right, to search the 
Scriptures whether the things are so, to try the spi-» 
rits, whether they be of God." This exercise of the 
potestas hayiLarixYi may give warning of error ; may 
detect the sophistry upon which the error rests, and 
may collect the proofs of the sound doctrine. All 
these are helps, which private Christians derive 
from that order of men instituted by Christ for the 
edification of his body, the church. But the under- 
standing is not overruled, because it is assisted ; with 
these helps Christians are only better able to exer- 
cise their understanding, upon subjects less familiar 
to them than to their teachers ; and if, after making 
the proper use of this assistance, they are satisfied 
that the decision of the church is not well founded, 
and that what the church brands as an error is 

508 POTESTAS ^oyiicirm- 

agreeable to the word of God, they are perfectly ac- 
quitted in the judgment of their own consciences, 
and in the sight of God, for refusing to adhere to 
what appears to them an erroneous decision ; and it 
is as much their duty to hold what they account 
true, although contrary to the judgment of the 
church, as it was the duty of the church to warn 
them against what she accounted an error. 

And thus, by the potestas loyiLari%y\i as claimed by 
Protestants, the church, according to the true mean- 
ing of that expression of Paul, 1 Tim. iii. 15, is 
** the pillar and ground of the truth," GrS^-.og xai £(5^a/w/^a 
rm akn^iiag ; not as it is interpreted in the church of 
Rome, the foundation upon which the truth rests, 
but the publisher and defender of the truth. In an- 
cient times, edicts and other writings intended for 
the information of the people were affixed to pil- 
lars ; and this was the legal method of promulgation. 
So the church declares, holds up to public view, the 
truth recorded in Scripture ; and when the truth is 
attacked, the church by its decisions supports the 
truth, stating fairly what had been perverted, and 
exhibiting the proofs of what had been denied. It 
remains with those, to whom the church ministers, 
to compare what is inscribed upon the pillar with 
the original record, from which it professes to be 
taken, and to examine the statement and the proofs 
which are submitted to their consideration. The 
church discharges its office by warning them against 
error ; they do their duty, when they listen with at- 
tention to the warning, and yet are careful not to be 
misled by those who are appointed to assist their en- 
deavours in searching after the truth. If, in conse- 
quence of fulfilling this duty, they sometimes rejeci 

POTESTAS Aoyfity-rayi. 509 

tlie truth which is proposed to them, and adopt er- 
roneous tenets, this is only a proof, that, in the pre- 
sent imperfect state, uniformity of opinion is not 
consistent with the free exercise of the human un- 
derstanding ; and it is unquestionably better that 
men should sometimes err, than that they should be 
compelled to the acknowledgment of any system, by 
an authority which is not competent to fallible mor- 
tals, and which destroys the reasonable nature of 
those over whom it is exerted. 

I conclude this subject with stating, that the view 
which I have given of the potestas doyfjt^uTun is agree- 
able to the declared sentiments of both the churches 
in this island. In the 20th article of the church of 
England, are these words : " The church hath au- 
thority in matters of faith. And yet it is not law- 
ful for the church to ordain any thing that is con- 
trary to God's word written ; neither may it so ex- 
pound one place of Scripture, that it be contrary ta 
another. Wherefore, although the church be a wit- 
ness and keeper of holy writ, yet besides the same, 
ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for 
necessity of salvation." In the 21st Article, it is 
said, " General councils, forasmuch as they be an 
assembly of men whereof all be not governed with 
the spirit and word of God, may err, and sometimes 
have erred even in things pertaining unto God. 
Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to 
salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless 
it may be declared that they are taken out of the 
holy Scriptures." The whole first chapter of our 
Confession of Faith, concerning the holy Scriptures, 
is a testimony against the potestas hoyiLOLnxr^ claimed 
by the church of Rome. In the 31st chapter, it is 

510 POTESTAS ^(^yixarm,. 

said, " It belongetli to synods and councils minis- 
terially to determine controversies of faith ; and 
their determinations, if consonant to the word of God, 
are to be received with reverence and submission, 
not only for their agreement with the word, but also 
for the power whereby they are made, as being an 
ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his word. 
All synods and councils, since the apostles, whether 
general or particular, may err, and many have erred ; 
therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith 
or practice, but to be used as an help in both." 

POTEST AS ^larazriKYi' <511 


POTESTAS Atara%Ti%n* 

The potestas BiaTa-AT^xri, that which respects ecclesias- 
tical canons or constitutions, is limited and regulat- 
ed by the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus, 
and the liberties of his disciples. 

The church of Rome, professing to be the keepers 
of an unwritten word, out of which they can supply 
at their pleasure the deficiencies of Scripture, and 
claiming an authority to which Christians owe im- 
plicit subjection, conceive that they have a right to 
enact laws which bind the conscience, and which 
cannot be transgressed without incurring the same 
penalties, which are annexed to every breach of the 
divine law. They have, in virtue of this claim, 
made numberless additions to the essential parts of 
the worship of God, which, although not enjoined 
in Scripture, they represent as indispensably neces- 
sary, in order to the acceptance of the worshipper. 
They impose restraints in the enjoyment of the com- 
forts of life, in the formation of different connexions, 
and in the conduct of the business of society ; re- 
straints which, although not founded upon the word 
of God, cannot be broken through without incurring, 
in the judgment of the church, the guilt of a deadly 
sin. They not only command, upon pain of eternal 
damnation, many performances, as fasts, and pen an- 

512 POTESTAS A/«rax.r;7f'/:. 

ces, and pilgrimages, which the Scriptures clo not 
require ; but they even enjoin by their authority, 
as in the case of the worship of images, and other 
services which appear to us idolatrous, what the 
Scriptures seem to have forbidden ; and they abridge 
the liberty of Christians by a multitude of frivolous 
institutions, a compliance with which is not left to 
be regulated by the discretion and circumstances of 
individuals, but is bound rigorously upon all, unless 
the church chooses to give a dispensation from the 
duty, which her authority had created. 

All this constitutes one large branch of what Pro- 
testants account the usurpation and tyranny of the 
church of Rome. It appears to them to be an en- 
croachment upon the prerogative of the " one Law- 
giver, who is able to save and to destroy," who, 
having delivered in his word the laws of his king- 
dom, has not committed to any the power of alter- 
ing, repealing, or multiplying these laws, but has 
left his disciples to learn, from his own discourses, 
and the writings of his apostles, " all things what- 
soever he has commanded them to observe." By 
this encroachment upon the prerogative of the one 
Lawgiver, the rights of Christians too are invaded ; 
because, instead of having to walk by a precise rule 
delivered in Scripture, which all may know, their 
consciences are subjected to regulations indefinite in 
number, which, depending upon the views and the 
pleasure of particular men, may not only become op- 
pressive, but may involve them in the most distress- 
ing embarrassment, by requiring them, as a condi- 
tion of salvation, to do that which to their own 
judgment appears sinful. 

Against this usurpation and tyranny, all Protest- 

POTEST AS A/ar«y.r/x.?;. 51 S 

ants have revolted ; and in opposition to it they 
hold that the church has no power to prescribe any 
new terms of acceptance with God, or any other con- 
ditions of salvation than those which are declared in 
Scripture ; that every person who worships God ac- 
cording to the directions v/hich he himself has given 
may hope, through the merits of Jesus, to please 
him ; that the law of God is fulfilled by abstaining 
from what he has forbidden, and by doing what he 
has commanded ; and that God alone being the Lord 
of conscience, no ecclesiastical regulation can justify 
us in doing what we account sinful, or in abstaining 
from what we think commanded ; or can so far alter 
the nature of things as to convert an action, con- 
cerning which the word of God has not left any di- 
rection, into a necessary indispensable duty, which 
we may in no situation omit without incurring the 
divine displeasure. 

Notwithstanding these limitations, which the su- 
preme authority of Christ and the rights of his sub- 
jects obviously require, there remains a large field 
for the pofestas diara-/.rr/.ri, and many questions have 
arisen amongst Christians concerning the proper 
and lawful exercise of it within that field. 

There is one branch indeed of the exercise of the 
potestas diaraxTJxrj, v/hich admits of no dispute. It 
may be employed in enforcing the laws of Christ ; 
not that the authority of these laws derives any ac- 
cession from that of the church. But as the church 
is the publisher and defender of the rule of faith 
contained in the Scriptures, so she is also the pub- 
lisher and defender of the rule of practice there de- 
livered. The ministers of religion, in their indivi- 
dual capacity, exhort and persuade Christians to ob- 

VOL. 111. 2 L 

514 POTESTAS AiaruTtrr/.r,. 

serve this rule. When the rule is generally violat- 
ed, or when it is perverted by gross misinterpreta- 
tions which are likely to spread, the teachers of any 
district united in a society, forming what we call 
the church of that district, may address an admoni- 
tion or explanation to all who are of their commun- 
ion. The interposition of this visible authority may 
awaken the minds of the people to a recollection of 
that superior authority which is not an object of 
sense ; and the infliction of those censures, which 
are within the power of the church, may serve as a 
warning of those judgments which the Almighty has 
reserved in his own power. In all churches there 
are standing laws of the church enjoining the great 
branches of morality. There are also occasional in- 
junctions and ordinances prohibiting those transgres- 
sions which are most flagrant ; reproofs and warn- 
ings against sins, which at any time particularly 
abound in a district. As no person who attends to 
the manners of the world will say that such laws, 
and injunctions, and reproofs, are unnecessary, so 
experience does not justify any person in saying 
that they are wholly ineffectual. While civil govern- 
ment prohibits many immoralities under this view, 
that they are hurtful to the peace of society, church 
government extends its prohibitions to other immor- 
alities also, which do not fall under this description ; 
and when the two conspire, as, if both are legiti- 
mately exercised, will never fail to be the case, they 
are of considerable use in restraining enormity of 
transgression, and in preserving that decency of 
outward conduct, which is a great public benefit, 
and which, with many, might not proceed from the 
unassisted influence of religion. 

POTESTAS AiaraxTmr,. 515 

It is unnecessary to dwell longer upon this undis- 
puted exercise of the authority of the church in 
commanding what Christ has commanded, and for- 
bidding what he has forbidden. The discussions, 
which the potestas hoLTanrmi requires, respect those 
numberless occasions upon which the church is call- 
ed to make enactments by her own authority. To 
these enactments there was applied, in early times, 
the name canons, which is derived from the Greek 
word xamv, regitla, and which means to convey that 
these enactments are not put upon a footing with 
the laws of Christ ; but, being subordinate to them, 
are merely regulations applying general laws to par- 
ticular cases. 

The first object of these regulations is what we 
may call matters of order. The church being a so- 
ciety, in which a number of persons are united, and 
are supposed frequently to assemble, there must be 
regulations enacted to give the outward polity of the 
society its form, to ascertain the terms upon which 
persons are admitted to bear office in the society, 
and to direct the time and place of assembling for 
all the members. It is manifest that such matters 
of order cannot be left to the discretion of indivi- 
duals, because the variety of their determinations 
would produce confusion. It may be supposed that 
with regard to all such matters, individuals are ready 
to follow that authority which they unite in recog- 
nising ; and if the Christian society is not necessa- 
rily dependent upon any human society, but may 
exist by itself, and has within itself the powers ne- 
cessary for its own preservation, this authority of 
order must be lodged in the office-bearers of the so- 

One of the most important circumstances of order 

516 POTESTAS A/arr/xw//^. 

in the Christian society is the time of holding the 
assemblies. I do not mean the hours, but the days, 
of meeting ; a circumstance with regard to which 
an uniformity may naturally be expected in a so- 
ciety united by the same faith. It has been com- 
mon for men in all ages to connect the remembrance 
of interesting events with the solemnization of the 
days, upon which such events originally happened : 
and the first teachers of the Gospel appear to have 
given their sanction to this natural propensity, by 
changing the weekly rest, from the seventh day to 
the day upon which Christ rose from the dead. 
From emotions of respect and gratitude, and from 
the authority of this example, there was early intro- 
duced in the Christian church the annual solemniza- 
tion of Christmas as the day upon which Christ was 
born ; of Easter as the day upon which he rose ; 
and of Whitsunday as the day upon which the Holy 
Ghost was poured forth. Although these anniver- 
sary solemnities were very early observed, there was 
not an uniform tradition in the church with regard 
to the precise day of the year, upon which each of 
the three events had happened. Even in the second 
century, there were violent disputes between the 
Asiatic and the western Christians, whether Easter 
should be kept always upon a Sunday, or whether, 
without regard to the day of the week, it should be 
kept on the third day after the day of the Jewish 
passover, which was considered as a type of the 
death of Christ, and which happened invariably up- 
on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month. 
This controversy, insignificant as it appears in our 
times, agitated the whole Christian world for many 
years, and was not decided till the council of Nice, 
giving their sanction to the practice of the western 

rOTESTAS A/ara^r/X'/j. 517 

Christians, established throughout Christendom the 
observance of the day called Good Friday, in re- 
membrance of Christ's death, and of the succeeding 
Sunday, in remembrance of his resurrection. 

In the progress of the superstitions of the church 
of Rome, a multitude of days were consecrated to 
the memory of saints ; and it was impressed upon 
the minds of the people, that the scrupulous observ- 
ance of all the fasts and feasts, which the church 
chose to ordain, was an essential part of religion. 
The spirit of the Reformation led men to throw off 
a bondage, most hurtful to the interests of society, 
and most inconsistent with the whole character of 
the Christian religion, which ranks the distinction 
of days amongst the rudiments of the law, and de- 
clares by the mouth of Paul, that " he that regard- 
eth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord, and he that 
regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not re- 
gard it."* Upon the principle implied in this decla- 
ration, such of the reformers, as wished to depart 
very far from the corruptions of the church of Rome, 
abolished those days which from early times had 
been kept sacred in honour of Christ, as well as 
those Avhich had been dedicated to the saints ; and, 
as is the case in Scotland, where no day in the year, 
except the Lord's day, is statedly appropriated to re- 
ligious service, they retained only the Sabbath, which 
they considered as of divine institution. It was un- 
derstood, however, that the church has a power of 
appointing days occasionally, according to circum- 
stances, for the solemn services of religion, although 
the annual return of festivals appeared to them to 

•* Romans xiv. 6. 

518 rOTESTAS AiaraKriyiT,. 

lead to abuse. Such of the reformers, again, as 
judged it expedient to conform, as far as could be 
done with safety, to the ancient practice of the 
church, retained the names of the days sacred to the 
memory of the apostles, and distinguished with pe- 
culiar honour the three great festivals in which the 
Christian world had long agreed, Christmas, Easter, 
and Whitsunday. In the church of England, these 
days are statedly and solemnly observed. Some of 
the more zealous assertors of the authority which 
appointed those days attempted, in the seventeenth 
century, to conciliate greater reverence for the ap- 
pointment, by placing them upon a level with the 
Lord's day. They maintained that the change from 
the seventh to the first day of the week was made, 
not by divine, but by ecclesiastical authority ; they 
denied the morality of the Sabbath ; and they gave 
the countenance of law to those sports and recrea- 
tions, after the time of divine service upon that day, 
Avhich had been usual upon the multiplicity of festi- 
vals in the times of Popery. 

The controversy concerning the morality of the 
Sabbath, in which the Puritans and the violent Epis- 
copalians of the seventeenth century eagerly opposed 
one another, has long since terminated in those ra- 
tional views v/liich are now generally entertained. 
That a seventh part of our time should be kept holy 
to God, appears to be an express positive appoint- 
ment of our Creator. On what day of the week 
that seventh part should fall, is a matter of indiffer- 
ence. But the consent of the Christian world, and 
many other circumstances, conspire in showing that 
the change from the last to the first day of the week 
was made by apostolical authority ; and in this re- 

POTEST AS A/araxT/x'/j. 519 

spect the Sabbath is clearly distinguished from all 
the days, which the laws of the church may either 
statedly or occasionally set apart for the exercises of 
religion. As to the manner of keeping the Sabbath 
holy, that significant expression of our Lord, " The 
Sabbath was made for man,"* and the general prin- 
ciples which he unfolded, as he occasionally touched 
upon the subject, may preserve his disciples at once 
from Jewish or Puritanical strictness, and from those 
levities which party spirit in the seventeenth century 
enacted by a law. The same principles apply to 
those days, upon which ecclesiastical authority en- 
joins the performance of particular services. There 
may be much expediency and edification in such 
appointments : they are matters of order, which 
must be regulated by the powers that are ; and any 
person who wantonly pours contempt upon them, 
or who obstinately refuses to observe them, knows 
very little of the spirit of the Gospel, and has much 
need to examine his own heart. 

But the principles, upon which obedience to the 
potestas hara.Y.rin'n ought to proceed, will be more ful- 
ly unfolded in considering the second object of ec- 
clesiastical canons or regulations. 

The Christian society having been founded for 
this purpose, amongst others, that the members may 
join in worshipping one God and Father of all, 
through one Lord Jesus Christ, many of the regu- 
lations enacted by the church respect the conduct of 
divine worship. The Father, indeed, requires from 
all a worship in spirit and in truth. It were impi- 
ous to raise up new objects of worship ; and Christ- 

* Mark ii. 27. 


ians are not warranted to make any alteration upon 
the substance of the two sacraments, or to place any 
human institution upon a level with them. This 
would be what the apostle, Col. ii. 23, calls ikXo&or^, 
will-worship, that is, worship of our own framing, 
which all Protestants agree in disclaiming. Still, in 
the manner of performing that worship, which is the 
most strictly agreeable to the genius and character 
of the Gospel, there are circumstances which the wis- 
dom of God has left to be regulated by human au- 
thority. These circumstances respect the decency 
and solemnity which ought to be maintained in pub- 
lic worship, both for the credit of religion in the eyes 
of strangers, and also for the purpose of cherishing 
and preserving a becoming reverence in the minds of 
the worshippers. There is no man whose conceptions 
of spiritual objects are at all times so refined, as to 
be wholly independent of that which is external ; 
and with regard to the generality, there is much 
danger that if the different parts of the worship pre- 
scribed by the Gospel were to be performed in a 
slovenly and irreverent manner, no small portion of 
the contempt incident to the outward action would 
be transferred to religion itself. 

All these circumstances, which do not make any 
essential addition to the worship of God, which re- 
spect merely the manner of its being conducted, and 
which are intended to maintain the credit of religion, 
and to excite the devotion of the worshippers by the 
solemnity of the outward action, are known by the 
name of rites and ceremonies ; and it is understood 
by all Protestant churches, with the exception only 
of a iew sects, that rites and ceremonies fall under 

the JJOlestas' diurazr/Kr^. 

POTESTAS ^laTOLy.rr/.n. 521 

If the apostles of Jesus had established, by their 
authority, a precise formulary of rites and ceremonies 
binding upon Christians in all ages, it would follow- 
that succeeding office-bearers had no occasion and no 
warrant to exercise this branch of the potestas 
hara%ri%v\ ; and that it was incumbent upon Christians 
to follow, without alteration, the rule prescribed to 
them. Such a formulary might perhaps be extract- 
ed out of a book entitled, The Apostolical Constitu- 
tions, in which the names of the apostles are prefix- 
ed to very particular rules and directions about 
Christian worship. But the most learned inquirers 
into Christian antiquity are decidedly of opinion, that 
this is one of the many spurious books which igno- 
rance and zeal produced in the very first ages of the 
church ; " the work," as Mosheim says, ** of some 
austere and melancholy author, who, having taken it 
into his head to reform the Christian worship, made 
no scruple to prefix to his rules the names of the 
apostles, that thus they might be more speedily and 
favourably received."* The only regulations, there- 
fore, concerning rites and ceremonies, which we have 
any reason to ascribe to the apostles, are those which 
we find in their epistles : and the following observa- 
tions cannot fail to occur to any person who consi- 
ders them. Some of the directions, which Paul 
gives to the Corinthians concerning the worship of 
God in their assemblies, have a manifest reference to 
the abundance with which extraordinary gifts of the 
Spirit were then poured forth, and to the abuses 
which that abundance occasioned ; and they apply 
only by analogy to other states of the church. Other 

* Mosh. Eccl, Hist. Cent. 1. Part II. chap. ii. 

d^^ POTESTAS AiarazTizri. 

directions of his were dictated by the manners of 
those times, which have now given place to very 
different manners. He intimates that some of the 
regulations which he prescribes did not proceed from 
the Spirit of God, but were his own judgment, given 
by him " as one that had obtained mercy of the 
Lord to be faithful." He concludes the particular 
directions which occupy 1 Cor. xiv. with these words, 
'* Let all things be done decently, and in order ;" and 
he writes to Titus, " For this cause left I thee in 
Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that 
are wanting." Laying all these things together, we 
thus reason. As the apostle, from his own judgment, 
gave such directions in external matters as the cir- 
cumstances of his times seemed to him to require ; as 
he committed to the church at Corinth a discretion- 
ary power with regard to such matters, by desiring 
them to " do all things decently, and in order ;" and 
as he charged one minister whom he ordained, to 
supply what he had left deficient, it is a part of the 
duty of the office-bearers of the church in succeeding 
ages — a duty which does not require inspiration, 
which is included in their ordinary commission, and 
to which they are fully competent — to make such 
regulations with regard to the like matters, as to 
them appears expedient. 

This inference, which the writings of the apostles 
seem fairly to warrant, is agreeable to the whole ge- 
nius of the Gospel. It requires what is, in the high- 
est sense of that phrase, " a reasonable service." It 
does not, with regard to any branch of morality, pre- 
scribe what is called " bodily exercise;" but, inspir- 
ing those generous sentiments which are in every 
possible situation the principles of good conduct, it 


leaves a Christian, in the expression of these senti- 
ments, the full liberty that belongs to an accountable 
agent. We hold that no particular form of church 
government is so precisely marked down in Scrip- 
ture, as to render any other unlawful. There are 
general rules to which all that bear office in the church 
of Christ are required to conform, whatever be their 
names or their distinctions of rank. But these rules 
admit of that variety in the forms of church govern- 
ment, by which the religion of Jesus is qualified to 
receive the countenance and protection of all the pos- 
sible forms which civil government can assume. In 
like manner we assert that that liberty with regard 
to rites, which we have inferred from the writings of 
the apostles, is most agreeable to the character of our 
universal religion ; for the ideas and usages of men 
differ widely in different countries, and in different 
states of society. Immersion at baptism, which was 
commonly practised where Christianity was first 
published, would, in our northern climates, be incon- 
venient or dangerous. The posture of reclining on 
couches, in which the apostles received the bread and 
wine from Jesus at the institution of the Lord's sup- 
per, not being used by Europeans upon ordinary oc- 
casions, is laid aside at that solemn service. The 
vestures of the ministers of religion, which in one 
country are thought decent, might, upon many ac- 
counts, appear unsuitable in another ; and ceremo- 
nies, which at their first appointment had a salutary 
effect, may by accident, abuse, or change of manners, 
require to be altered or repealed. 

It corresponds then with that wisdom which per- 
vades the whole dispensation of the Gospel, and with 
the character of a religion fitted for all ages and for 


all climates, that there should be in the church an 
authority to regulate, that is, to accommodate to cir- 
cumstances, so as may best promote the purposes of 
edification, those ceremonies and rites which from 
their nature are changeable. Such an authority is 
not inconsistent with the sovereign authority of the 
Lord Jesus ; because it does not presume to alter any 
thing which he appointed. It admits that reading 
the Scriptures, prayer, and praise, are unchangeable 
parts of Christian worship ; that the administration 
of the sacraments ought to be agreeable to the in- 
stitution of Christ ; and that no authority commit- 
ted to the church can either omit or add any thing 
essential. It professes only to regulate those things 
which may be varied, without touching what is 
substantial ; and in the canons enacted for this jnir- 
pose, far from invading the prerogative of Christ, it 
professes to follow out directions which he left by 
his apostles, and to exercise the authority created by 
these directions in the manner which is most agree- 
able to him, because most conducive to the ends for 
which the directions are given. — Neither is this au- 
thority inconsistent with the liberties of Christians ; 
because, being exercised purely for the sake of de- 
cency and order, it does not profess to alter the na- 
ture of those objects about which it is conversant, so 
as to fetter the conscience. The ceremonies are 
chosen, because they appear fit for the purpose ; and 
the authority by which they are ordained creates an 
obligation to observe them ; but no such holiness or 
worthiness is annexed to them, as to render them in- 
dispensable to the worship of God. If a person is 
placed in such a situatiou, that it is physically im- 
possible for him to obey the ecclesiastical canons 

POTEST AS Air/raT'.riy.n- ^^^^ 

which ordain the ceremonies, or that lie cannot yield 
this obedience without much inconvenience and the 
neglect of some higher duty, he will be accepted by 
offering that worship " in spirit and in truth,'* which 
his Lord prescribes. If he accounts the ceremonies 
sinful, this judgment, however erroneous it may be, 
yet if it is deliberately formed after the best consi- 
deration which he can bestow, Avill justify him for 
neglecting the ceremonies, and will render it his duty 
to abstain from them. Even while in obedience to 
the authority by which they are ordained he uni- 
formly observes them " for conscience sake ;" if his 
mind be well informed, he will continue to regard 
them as in their own nature indifferent, /. e. as mat- 
ters which the law of God has not determined to be 
either good or evil, which, from views of expediency, 
have been made the subject of human regulations, 
but which, from the same views, may be laid aside. 
In order to perceive how that authority of enact- 
ing ceremonies with which the church is invested, 
and the correspondent duty of observing them are 
consistent with the liberties of Christians, it is ne- 
cessary to form a distinct idea of what is called li- 
berty of conscience. Liberty of conscience, as the 
word implies, has its seat in the mind. Its essence 
consists in freedom of judgment, not in freedom of 
practice. If Christians are required to believe, as 
doctrines of God, any propositions which his word 
has not taught, or to receive as commandments of 
God what his word has not prescribed, their liberty 
of conscience is invaded. But if their judgment is 
left free, their practice may, without any sacrifice of 
their liberty, be restrained by different considera- 
tions. The writings of Paul furnish several exam- 

526 POTESTAS A/ara?cr/x?5. 

pies of the restraint of Christian practice without 
any invasion of Christian liberty ; and the best way 
in which I can illustrate the distinction is by direct- 
ing your attention to these examples. 

Paul teaches that no kind of meat is of itself un- 
clean, and that the distinction of meats, known un- 
der the law of Moses, is abolished by the Gospel.* 
And he mentions it as one branch of that corruption 
of the Gospel, which was to arise in the latter days, 
that men should command " to abstain from meats, 
which God hath created to be received with thanks- 
giving of them who believe and know the truth.f " 
Yet because many Christians converted from Ju- 
daism retained those prejudices as to the distinction 
of meats, which they had learned from the law ; 
because it would have been sinful in them to eat the 
kind of meat which they thought unlawful ; and be- 
cause they would have been offended, and might 
have been led into sin, by imitating their Christian 
brethren in eating that meat, the apostle declares his 
resolution to abstain from what, in his own judg- 
ment, was lawful, and he exhorts Christians to fol- 
low him. " It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to 
drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother 
stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Let us 
follow after the things which make for peace, and 
things wherewith one may edify another." Here is 
liberty of conscience remaining entire ; yet practice 
restrained by Christian charity. Another example, 
furnished by the writings of Paul, has relation to 
Christians converted from heathenism. In the hea- 
then sacrifices, a part of the animal being offered up- 
on the altar of a god, the remainder was consumed 

* Rom. xiv. 14—2]. t 1 Tim. iv. ], 3. 

POTESTAS AiaroLxrmri. 5^7 

by the worshippers at a feast in honour of that god, 
where he was supposed to be present, and where the 
worshippers conceived themselves to be partakers 
with him. Hence a doubt arose among the Christ- 
ian converts, whether, if they were invited to a feast, 
and the meat set before them was that which had 
been offered to an idol, they might lawfully eat of 
it ; or whether the partaking of this meat did not 
imply upon their part, as it did upon the part of 
the heathen worshippers, an acknowledgment of the 
idol, and a testimony of reverence. The apostle de- 
cides the matter in respect of the conscience of Christ- 
ians, by saying, " we know that an idol is nothing 
in the world," and consequently that meat is neither 
the better nor the worse for having been offered to 
an idol.* But, in respect of the practice of Christ- 
ians, he says, that as every man had not that know- 
ledge, as some still believed that an idol is some- 
thing, and notwithstanding that belief might be em- 
boldened to eat by the liberty of him who had know- 
ledge. Christians, for the sake of the consciences of 
others, ought to refrain from doing what their own 
conscience would permit them to do. " All things 
are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient ; 
all things edify not." f The New Testament, more- 
over, furnishes an instance in which the liberty of 
practice with regard to the distinction of meats, and 
the eating of things offered to idols, which, in cer- 
tain circumstances, should have been restrained by 
Christian charity, was also restrained by authority. 
The council of apostles and elders mentioned in Acts 
XV. sent this mandate to the uncircumcised Christ- 

* 1 Cor. viii. 4—13. t 1 Cor. x. 23. 

5^8 ' POTEST AS AiUTaznxr^. 

tians in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, " That ye ab- 
stain from meats offered to idols, and from blood." 
Paul was one of the bearers of this mandate, and we 
are told, that in passing through these countries, he 
delivered it to the churches to keep. Yet at that very 
time he was arguing in his epistles, that in respect 
of conscience. Christians are at liberty to eat every 
kind of meat. His doctrine asserted that freedom 
of judgment in which liberty of conscience consists : 
the decree in which he concurred, and of which he 
was the bearer, enjoined that restraint ujDon prac- 
tice, which circumstances rendered expedient, in 
those very things which to the judgment appeared 
free. Nay, liberty of conscience is asserted in the 
same decree, which restrained the practice of Christ- 
ians in matters indifferent. For the decree declares 
that the apostles had given no commandment to 
those teachers, who said to Christians, Ye must be 
circumcised. Here then is apostolical authority, is- 
suing by the same decree, a declaration of liberty of 
conscience, and an injunction as to practice ; and we 
find the conduct of the apostle Paul corresponding 
most accurately to the spirit, both of the declaration 
and of the injunction. At the very time that he 
was carrying the decree to the churches, he circum- 
cised Timothy, whose father was a Greek, and whose 
mother was a Jewess.* He did it because of the 
Jews who dwelt in those parts ; considering that 
Timothy would be a more useful minister of the 
Gospel amongst them, and more likely to overcome 
their antipathy to the faith of Christ, when it ap- 
peared that neither he nor the apostle, from whom 

* Acts xvi. ], 3. 

POTESTAS A/araxr/x>j. 5^9 

he had received the knowledge of the Gospel, had any 
objection to his acknowledging his hereditary con- 
nexion with the Mosaic dispensation. But when 
certain Judaizing teachers, who wished to bring 
Christians into bondage to the ceremonies of the 
law, would have compelled Paul to circumcise Titus, 
who was a Greek, he did not yield subjection to 
them, " no, not for an hour." * In a matter of in- 
difference, he had voluntarily accommodated himself 
to the prejudices of the Jews : but when an attempt 
was made to impose that matter of indifference as a 
matter of conscience, he asserted the liberty of 
Christians ; and thus by these two parts of his con- 
duct, considered as a commentary upon the aposto- 
lical decree, he has set an example to the Christian 
world of the distinction which ought always to be 
maintained, between liberty of judgment and liber- 
ty of practice. 

The principles, which may be educed out of the 
Scripture instances which I have mentioned, apply 
to all that has ever been known in the Christian 
church under the name of rites and ceremonies. 
While they vindicate the lawfulness of this branch 
of the potestas biarav.rt%ri, they serve also, when fully 
considered, to establish the rules which ought to be 
observed in the exercise of it ; and they illustrate 
the foundation and the measure of that obedience 
which is due to the enactments. 

The rites and ceremonies of the Christian church, 
agreeably to the general rules of Scripture, ought to 
be of such a kind as to promote the order, the decen- 
cy, and the solemnity of public worship. At the 

* Gal. ii. S, 4, 5. 
VOL. Iir. 2 M 

SSO POTESTAS A/araxr/x?;. 

same time, they ought not to be numerous, but 
should preserve that character of simplicity which 
is inseparable from true dignity, and which accords 
especially with the spiritual character of the religion 
of Christ. The apostles often remind Christians, 
that they are delivered from the ceremonies of the 
law, which are styled by Peter " a yoke which nei- 
ther they nor their fathers were able to bear." * The 
whole tenor of our Lord's discourses, and of the 
writings of his apostles, elevates the mind above those 
superstitious observances in which the Pharisees 
placed the substance of religion ; and, according to 
the divine saying of Paul, " the kingdom of God is 
not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, 
and joy in the Holy Ghost.f " The nature of this 
kingdom is forgotten, when frivolous observances 
are multiplied by human authority ; and the compli- 
cated expensive pageantry of Roman Catholic wor- 
ship, together with the still more childish ceremo- 
nies which abound in the Eastern or Greek church, 
appear to deserve the application of that censure 
which the apostle pronounced, when he represented 
the attempts made in his days to revive the Mosaic 
ritual, as a " turning again to weak and beggarly 
elements." :|: The multiplicity of external observ- 
ances is not only an unnecessary burden, to which 
Jesus did not mean to subject his followers, but it 
has a tendency to substitute " the rudiments of the 
world," in place of a worship " in spirit and in truth." 
While it professes to render the services of religion 
venerable, and to cherish devotion, it in reality fa- 
tigues and absorbs the mind ; and it requires such 

* Acts XV. 10. t Rom. xiv. 17- t Gal. iv. 9. 

POTEST AS ii/araxT/X7j. 531 

an expense of time and of money, that, like the hea- 
then amidst the pomp of their sacrifices, Christians 
are in danger of thinking they have fulfilled their 
duty to God by performing that work, which the 
ordinance of man had prescribed, and of losing all 
solicitude to present to the Father of Spirits that 
homage of the heart, which is the only offering truly 
valuable in his sight. Further, all the Scripture 
rules and examples suggest, that in enacting cere- 
monies, regard should be had to the opinions, the 
manners, and prejudices of those to whom they are 
prescribed ; that care should be taken never wanton- 
ly to give offence ; and that those who entertain 
more enlightened views upon the subject should not 
despise their weak brethren. Upon the same prin- 
ciple, it is obvious, that ceremonies ought not to be 
lightly changed. In the eyes of most people, those 
practices appear venerable which have been handed 
down from remote antiquity. To many, the want 
of those helps, to which they had been accustomed 
in the exercises of devotion, might prove very hurt- 
ful ; and frequent changes in the external parts of 
worship might shake the steadfastness of their faith. 
The last rule deducible from the Scripture examples 
is this, that the authority which enacts the ceremo- 
nies should clearly explain the light in which they 
are to be considered, should never employ any ex- 
pressions, or any means of enforcing them which 
tend to convey to the people that they are account- 
ed necessary to salvation, and should beware of 
seeming to teach that the most punctual observance 
of things in themselves indifferent is of equal im- 
portance with judgment, mercy, and the love of 

532 POTESTAS A/araxr/X'/j. 

If there is an authority in the church to enact 
rites and ceremonies, there must be a correspondent 
obligation upon Christians to respect that authority ; 
and the same considerations of order, decency, and 
edification, which establish the existence of the au- 
thority, require the obedience of Christians. The 
more nearly that the manner of exercising this au- 
thority approaches to the rules which we have educed 
out of Scripture, it will the better answer the pur- 
pose of the institution, and will be entitled to the 
more willing obedience. But it must be carefully 
marked, that the rules, which those who exercise 
the authority ought to prescribe to themselves, are 
not the measures of obedience. There is no autho- 
rity vested in the hands of fallible men, which is, 
upon all occasions, exercised in the best possible 
manner. Yet we do not conceive that the subjects 
of civil government are absolved from their allegi- 
ance, merely because they think that the laws pre- 
scribed to them might have been enacted with more 
wisdom. From the peculiar nature of the potestas 
biaTa-A,Ti7iri^ there is hardly a possibility of its being ex- 
ercised in such a manner as to give entire satisfac- 
tion to every understanding. Between the unneces- 
sary multiplication and parade of ceremonies upon 
one hand, and a hurtful deficiency upon the other, — 
between the regard which antiquity claims upon one 
hand, and the consideration due to occasional offence 
upon the other, the shades are numberless ; and were 
tlie precise medium always attained by those who 
have authority, it might, for opposite reasons, be 
condemned by persons of different habits and views. 
The rule of peace and order, therefore, with regard 
to the members of the Christian society, is compli- 


POTESTAS ^taray.rr/.n. 533 

ance with the ceremonies which are established by 
authority, unless they appear to them unlawful. In 
particular circumstances, they may find it necessary 
tor protest against a multitude of ceremonies which 
they consider as burdensome, or against any at- 
tempt to impose things indifferent as a matter of 
conscience. But if there is nothing unlawful in the 
ceremonies that are appointed, they have need to de- 
liberate well whether it is justifiable for such a cause 
to disturb the peace of society, or whether it is not 
more agreeable to the quiet, condescending, and ac- 
commodating spirit of the Gospel, while, by judging 
that the things are indifferent, they keep their minds 
free from bondage, to maintain that conduct which 
" gives none offence to the church of God." 

This last was not the judgment of that descrip- 
tion of men known by the name of Puritans, whose 
opposition to this branch of the potestas biaray.ri%n 
forms a large portion of the ecclesiastical history of 
Britain for above a century, and produced very im- 
portant effects upon its civil government. Early 
after the Reformation, in the reign of Queen Eliza- 
beth, the Puritans objected in general to the lawful- 
ness of imposing ceremonies by authority, as an 
abridgment of the liberty of Christians in matters 
not commanded by the word of God : and they ob- 
jected, in particular, to the vestments appointed to 
be worn by the clergy in their public ministrations, 
because, having been worn in times of Popery, the} 
had then been abused to superstition and idolatry. 
They objected also to the lawfulness of using the sigii 
of the cross in baptism, of kneeling at the Lord's 
supper, and of other observances of the like kind. 
The objections were answered by asserting the power 

534 POTESTAS Aiaranrr/.r,. 

of the church in regulating matters indifferent, by 
stating the prudential considerations which led the 
church of England to retain some of the popish ce- 
remonies, in the hopes of keeping the Papists with- 
in the church ; and by declaring, as is done in the 
preface to the Common Prayer Books, " That no 
holiness or worthiness was annexed to the garments 
of the priests ; and that while the excessive multi- 
tude of ceremonies used in times of Popery was laid 
aside, some were received for a decent order in the 
church for which they were first devised, and be- 
cause they pertained to edification, whereunto all 
things done in the church ought to be referred." 
These answers did not remove the objections of the 
Puritans. The controversy was agitated with much 
violence during a great part of the seventeenth cen- 
tury. It was the subject of numberless publica- 
tions, of debates in parliament, and of judicial dis- 
cussion. The Puritans, not content with argument 
and petition, employed various methods of inflam- 
ing the minds of the people, and made many at- 
tempts to obtain their object by faction and commo- 
tion. The church, irritated by opposition to her 
authority, was little disposed to condescend to weak 
consciences, in points which might have been yield- 
ed, and often employed severity to bend those whom 
she could not convince. It is not my province to 
enter into a detail of these proceedings, or to com- 
pare the conduct of the different parties. I mention 
them only as furnishing the most interesting occasion, 
upon which this branch of the potestas harayiTixri was 
thoroughly canvassed. There probably were faults 
on both sides ; and the reflection, which the whole 
history of that period suggests to us, is this, that we 

POTESTAS A/araxT/XTj. 5S5 

have much reason to congratulate ourselves upon 
living in times, when a knowledge of the nature and 
the measure of church authority is conjoined with a 
respect for those principles of toleration and conde- 
scension, which, although most congenial to the spirit 
of the Gospel, were, for many ages, little understood 
by the disciples of Christ. The application of these 
principles, and the manner in which they may be re- 
conciled with the legitimate exercise of church power, 
will be illustrated after we have considered the last 
branch of that power, which we distinguished by the 
name oi potestas d/ax^ir/xt}. 


POTESTAS ^iux^^nzrj. 


POTESTAS A/axf/r/x;j. 

The potestas diax^mxT^, that which respects discipline^ 
or the exercise of judgment in inflicting and remov- 
ing censures, is, like the other two branches, limited 
and regulated by the sovereign authority of the Lord 
Jesus, and the liberties of his disciples. 

We found formerly that this branch of power be- 
longs to the church. Even a voluntary association 
has an inherent right of removing those who are 
judged unworthy of remaining ; and the church, that 
society constituted by Jesus Christ, into which it is 
the duty of his disciples to enter, is invested by its 
Divine Founder with the right of exercising, by its 
ministers, the office of admonishing, reproving, sus- 
pending, or excluding from the privileges of the so- 
ciety, according to the conduct of the members. In 
order, however, to perceive in what manner the ex- 
ercise of the power implied in this office is regulated 
and limited by the sovereign authority of Christ, and 
the liberties of his disciples, it is necessary to recol- 
lect particularly the words in which the power is 
conveyed or expressed, and the claims which have 
been founded upon the interpretation of them. 

When our Lord said to Peter, " I will give unto 

POTESTAS ^ia'm7i%%. 53'^ 

thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,"* he seems 
to have intended to explain this figurative expres- 
sion, by adding, in the words then addressed to Peter, 
but afterwards addressed to all the apostles, " What- 
soever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in 
heaven ; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth 
shall be loosed in heaven."f After his resurrection, 
our Lord " breathed on the apostles, and said unto 
them. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever 
sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them ; and 
whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.":j: 
The apostle Paul, in the exercise of that authority 
thus given to the apostles, judged that the incestu- 
ous person at Corinth should be " delivered unto 
Satan ;"§ and he says of Hymeneus and Alexander, 
who " concerning faith had made shipwreck, I have 
delivered them unto Satan, that they may learn not 
to blaspheme." II 

The expressions used in these passages of Scrip- 
ture occur in the earliest accounts of the discipline 
exercised by the Christian church : and the practice 
of the church in primitive times explains the sense 
in which these expressions were understood. When 
disciples of Christ, who had dishonoured his religion 
by committing any gross immorality, or by relaps- 
ing into idolatry, were cut off from the church by the 
sentence of excommunication, they were kept, often 
for years, in a state of penance, however desirous to 
be readmitted. They made a public confession of 
their faith, accompanied with the most humiliating 

* Matt. xvi. 19. t Matt, xviii. 18. 

+ John XX. 22, 23. § 1 Cor. v. 3, 4, 5. 

II 1 Tim. i. 19, 20. 

538 POTESTAS Ataz^/rtxy}. 

expressions of grief. For some time they stood with- 
out the doors, while the Christians were employed 
in worship. Afterwards they were allowed to enter ; 
then to stand during a part of the service ; then to 
remain during the whole : but they were not per- 
mitted to partake of the Lord's supper, till a formal 
absolution was pronounced by the church. The 
time of the penance was sometimes shortened, when 
the anguish of their mind, or any occasional distress 
of body, threatened the danger of their dying in that 
condition, or when those who were then suffering 
persecution, or other deserving members of the church, 
interceded for them, and became by this intercession, 
in some measure, sureties for their future good be- 
haviour. The duration of the penance, the acts re- 
quired while it continued, and the manner of the ab- 
solution, varied at different times. The matter was, 
from its nature, subject to much abuse ; it was often 
taken under the cognizance of ancient councils ; and 
a great part of their canons was employed in regu- 
lating the exercise of discipline. 

From a perversion of several parts of the primi- 
tive practice, and from a false interpretation of the 
passages which have been quoted from Scripture, 
there arose gradually that gross corruption of the 
potestas diax^iTinri, Avliicli prevailed in the church of 
Rome. It came to be understood that the sentence 
of excommunication, by its own intrinsic authority, 
condemned to external punishment ; that the excom- 
municated person could not be delivered from this 
condemnation, unless the church gave him absolu- 
tion ; and that the church had the power of absolv- 
ing him upon the private confession of his fault, 
either by prescribing to him certain acts of penance, 

POTESTAS A/ax^/r/z>j. 539 

and works of charity, the performance of which was 
considered as a satisfaction for the sin which he had 
committed, or by applying to him the merits of some 
other person. And as, in the progress of corruption, 
the whole power of the church was supposed to be 
lodged in the Pope, there flowed from him, at his 
pleasure, indulgences or remissions of some parts of 
the penance, absolutions, and pardons, the possession 
of which was represented to Christians as essential 
to salvation, and the sale of which formed a most 
gainful traffic. 

It is unnecessary to state how opposite this system 
of the potestas hia%^irr/.Yt- is, both to the sovereign au- 
thority of the Lord Jesus, and to the rights of his 
disciples. Instead of holding them accountable to 
their Master in heaven, who alone " is able to save 
and to destroy," it teaches them to depend for salva- 
tion upon conforming to the caprice, and gratifying 
the avarice of men, equally subject to him, and often 
more corrupt than themselves. 

To avoid any approach to this system, one funda- 
mental principle must never be forgotten, that the 
future and eternal punishment of sin is in the power 
of God ; that none can forgive sins, so as to deliver 
from that punishment, but God alone ; and there- 
fore, that the judgments pronounced by the church 
can respect only those external censures and penal- 
ties of sin, which it has the power of inflicting, and 
which, consequently, it has the power of removing. 
Holding this principle, of which the whole system of 
religion affords unquestionable assurance, we cannot 
give a proper interpretation of the passages which I 
quoted from Scripture, without making a distinction 
between that branch of the judicial power of the 

540 POTESTAS Ataxoi7r/.Yi. 

church which is merely declarative, and that which 
is authoritative. We are taught in Scripture, that 
sin deserves the wrath of God, both in this life and 
in that which is to come ; that every obstinate and 
impenitent sinner shall certainly endure the everlast- 
ing effects of this wrath, but that all who repent and 
believe in Christ have " redemption through his 
blood, the forgiveness of sins ;" and thus by faith in 
him are delivered from the power of Satan, and 
translated into the kingdom of God. This is the 
great doctrine of the Gospel, which the church is 
appointed to publish by the ministry of the word, 
and which her ministers apply, according to circum- 
stances, to those over whom their office gives them 
inspection. When, by virtue of that inspection, they 
are called to attend to the transgressions of a parti- 
cular person, the general doctrine is applied to warn 
him of the danger of sin ; and when he becomes 
ashamed of his conduct, it is applied to compose his 
mind with the hope of forgiveness. This application 
may be accommodated to his temper and situation, 
with a prudence that renders it more useful to him 
than any general discourse ; and it claims his atten- 
tion, because it proceeds, not from an individual, but 
from those who are set over him in the Lord, and 
who speak in the name of their Master, from whom 
they derive a commission to make this application. 
They may be mistaken in judging of the sincerity 
of his repentance ; for although it is possible that 
the gift of discerning spirits, with which the apos- 
tles were endowed, might enable them to know 
whether a person, who had sinned, was qualified by 
the state of his mind to receive forgiveness from God, 
and so might direct them infallibly in retaining and 

POTEST AS Aia,7i^iT/xri. ' 541 

remitting sins, yet, as no such gift now exists in the 
church, succeeding office-bearers may often retain 
the sins which God is ready to forgive, and remit 
those which he sees cause to condemn. But as the 
office of the church, in regard to the future and eter- 
nal consequences of sin, is merely declarative, no 
evil can arise from the fallibility of those by whom 
that office is exercised. They only publish a general 
truth : they call the person to whom the publication 
is specially addressed, to examine himself how far 
he is concerned in that truth ; and they leave the 
determination of his final condition to God, who 
knows his heart. 

But there is another branch of the judicial power 
of the church which is authoritative, in which those, 
by whom the power is exercised, act, strictly speak- 
ing, as judges, pronouncing a sentence, the effects of 
which operate in virtue of their right to judge. To 
understand the manner in which our Lord has ex- 
pressed this authoritative power, you will observe, 
that " the kingdom of heaven," the keys of which 
he gave to Peter, and, as Protestants believe, to the 
other apostles also, does not in the passage referred 
to, mean that state of glory for which Christians 
are prepared by the discipline of this life ; but, ac- 
cording to a phraseology often used by our Lord, it 
denotes the dispensation of the Gospel, that spirit- 
ual economy which he has established, his church, 
the great society of which he is the head. You will 
find " the keys of the kingdom of heaven" common- 
ly divided in theological books into two, the key of 
doctrine and the key of discipline. This is the very 
distinction which I am now making, between the 
declarative and the authoritative power of the church. 

54^ POTESTAS Aiax^mxfi. 

By the key of doctrine, the office-bearers interpret, 
declare, and apply the truth ; by the key of disci- 
pline, they have the power of admitting into the 
church and excluding from it. In reference to this 
figure of the keys, there is added by our Lord, in 
explication, the other figurative expression of " bind- 
ing and loosing." For, as he who has the keys of 
a prison is invested with the office of imprisoning or 
releasing from prison, so those who have '' the keys 
of the kingdom of heaven," /. e, the power of admit- 
ting into the church and excluding from it, are in- 
vested with a judicial office, in the exercise of which 
their sentences bind upon men their sins, so that 
they are prevented from entering into the church, 
or loose them from their sins, so that they find ad- 
mission. The bodily act of binding is put for that 
sentence of condemning, which, after his resurrec- 
tion, our Lord expressed by *' retaining sin ;" the 
bodily act of loosing for that sentence of absolving, 
which he then expressed by " remitting sins." The 
phrase, " delivering unto Satan," has, in like man- 
ner, a reference to admission into the church. For 
the Gospel represents the existence of two opposite 
kingdoms ; one in which Christ is king ; the other 
in which Satan reigns. Persons at their baptism 

renounced Satan; there was a-xoTa^ig Sarava; euvTa^ig X^iaruj. 

When they were excluded from the church, they re- 
turned, were sent back to that kingdom of Satan, 
out of which at their baptism they had been trans- 

The administration of baptism to grown persons 
supposes, on their part, previous instruction, and 
submits the judgment of their qualifications to those 
by whom they are baptized. Infant baptism is in- 

POTESTAS A/axg/r/X7j. 543 

deed administered indiscriminately ; but there is a 
subsequent act, either confirmation, as in the church 
of England, or, as with us, admission for the first 
time to the Lord's supper, by which those who had 
been baptized are, at the age of discretion, formally 
received into the church, so that their qualifications 
also are submitted to the judgment of the office- 
bearers. We saw formerly, that the same persons, 
who are invested with the office of admitting into 
the church, are also invested with the office of ex- 
cluding from it. The two offices, which we natu- 
rally expect to be conjoined, make up what is meant 
by the key of discipline or jurisdiction ; and as Je- 
sus says, " I give this key," the two offices are a 
legitimate part of the constitution of his church, the 
exercise of which, far from being any invasion of his 
sovereignty, is an act of obedience to him, and a 
fulfilment of his purposes. He has left directions 
to the persons employed in those offices, for the due 
observance of which they are accountable to him ; 
and when they conform to his directions, the acts 
performed by them in the exercise of these offices 
are his acts, which, being done in his name, and by 
his authority, will receive his sanction. But there 
is no promise of infallibility to those to whom the 
offices are committed. They are called to exercise 
their own judgment in applying general directions 
to particular cases. They may wilfully, or from 
some corrupt motive, pronounce an unjust sentence; 
or, with the best intentions, they may be mistaken. 
It is impossible that Jesus can give his sanction to 
any sentence pronounced in opposition to his own 
directions ; and, therefore, with respect to him, such 
a sentence is the same as if it had not been pronoun- 

544 POTESTAS AiuK^tTJKrj. 

ced. His subjects may, indeed, suffer by sentences, 
excluding those who ought to be admitted, or ad- 
mitting those who ought to be excluded. But this 
is an inconvenience of the same kind with those, 
which always must result from power being lodged 
in the hands of fallible men. It does not affect the 
final salvation of any, because that depends entirely 
upon the judgment of God ; and even with regard 
to those external privileges which may be unjustly 
withheld, or improperly communicated, the incon- 
venience is not altogether without remedy. For, 
as Jesus can compensate by his grace for the want 
of those external privileges, which are only the 
means of conveying grace, so there are cases of ne- 
cessity, in which Christians are justified in depart- 
ing from the established order of the church, and 
in resorting to an extraordinary method of enjoying 
that comfort and edification, of which they are de- 
prived by the tyranny or gross abuse of its office- 

Having thus seen that the potestas diaK^m^ri, when 
rightly understood, is not inconsistent either with 
the sovereign authority of Christ or with the liber- 
ties of his disciples, it may be observed, in general, 
that it must be of equal extent with the other two 
branches of the power of the church ; that is, that 
the censures and penalties must somehow be appli- 
cable in all the cases which come under the potestas 
Uyiho^rmn and the potestas diaranrtKyi- For, if any one 
case were totally withdrawn from the potestas dia- 
x^/T/x'/j, the power of the church would in that case be 
nugatory ; because being left without defence, it 
might be despised with impunity. Yet the nature 
of things may require a very great difference in the 

POTESTAS A/ax^/r/x'/;. 545 

mode of exercising the potestas bia%^mKn upon differ- 
ent occasions ; and there may arise, from principles 
ah'eady explained, limitations and regulations of 
that power which all Christians, who " know Avhat 
manner of spirit they are of," will not fail to ob- 
serve. * 

* For the application of the principles mentioned above, to the 
different objects about which the potestas dtecK^triKn is conversant, 
and for the account of our national church, which the plan of the 
Lectures embraces, the reader is referred either to the author's 
View of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland, or to his 
Theological Institutes. The last work also contains the conclu- 
sion of the Lectures, viz. Observations on the different parts of 
the Office of a Parish Minister, and Counsels respecting the man- 
ner of performing them properly. Ed. 


VOL. IlL 2 N